The Island is reporting record-breaking sales tax figures and strong hotel occupancy numbers for summer 2019.
Ed Caum, director of the SPI Convention and Visitors Bureau, said last July’s sales tax revenue was more than 8.2 percent higher than July 2018, and that hotel occupancy taxes increased 4.13 percent for June and July year to year.
He said also that SPI’s website had seen a nearly 20 percent increase in traffic year to year through August, with an equally strong showing on social media. The SPI Facebook page just surpassed 500,000 “likes,” Caum noted.
The big news is that these revenue numbers happened despite a couple of three-month periods of less-than-ideal weather last year that hurt business, he said.
“To come back in the other six months is what made this newsworthy,” Caum said.
Total lodging revenues for the 2018-2019 fiscal year were nearly $138 million, compared to $114.5 million for fiscal year 2017-2018, he said.
“That’s a 24.9 percent growth over last year,” Caum said.
No single thing is driving growth but rather a combination of factors, such as stepped-up marketing efforts in the Rio Grande Valley, responsible for 42 percent of the Island’s sales and hotel occupancy tax revenues, he said.
“I think that’s a huge number,” Caum said. “Since I’ve come on board we’re advertising in the Valley more. … We really value RGV. For generations they’ve been coming to the Island. It’s their Island.”
SPI is also seeing a steadily emerging “drive market” from as far away as Laredo, and direct flights through Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport and Valley International Airport are a big help, he said.
“Also, we still get stuff from McAllen,” Caum said. “They go shopping in McAllen but still come to the Island for the beach.”
The SPI CVB placed SPI ads behind home plate for eight Astros home games and is also pushing digital advertising, he said.
“We’re trying some little things, and if it works we’re sticking with it,” Caum said. “If digital advertising is working somewhere we can keep it going. If not, we can turn it off. … By doing digital, we track on a weekly basis what’s working and what’s not. We actually do regular marketing meetings every Monday to see what’s working and what’s not.”
The Island’s refurbished Isla Blanca Park has begun hosting concerts that are bringing people in, with the Grammy-winning group La Mafia scheduled for Nov. 9, and more groups and meetings are coming to the Island, Caum said.
The CVB now has a full sales staff and, since Caum arrived in March, a full groups-and-meetings team, he said. The SPI Convention Center, meanwhile, is almost fully booked for 2020 and has begun booking into 2023, Caum said.
“Things are rocking good with the convention center and we’re looking forward to expanding,” he said. “We’ve got a study right now to see what we can do with more space.”