By Andreas Butler
For Hometown News
Volusia County leaders are looking for ways to increase the $3 to $4.2 billion tourism brings into the county every year.
The County Council hosted a meeting Jan. 28 at the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach to introduce the Tourism Marketing Study Preliminary report.
The report was put together by the Strategic Advisory Group of Atlanta and its lead advisor Daniel Fenton gave the presentation.
"Tourism is starting to come around like the economy," County Chair Jason Davis said. "We want to promote our entire county whether it is Daytona, New Smyrna, DeLand, Pierson or anywhere. We have so much to offer and we want everyone to come and enjoy all of what we have not just the beach."
The report suggested those in the industry share resources, form task forces, share website content and more.
It also encourages agencies, such as the Hotel and Lodging Association of Volusia County, Halifax Area Advertising Authority and the Convention and Business Bureau of Volusia County to work together.
"We will have our board meeting on Feb. 13 and I will bring up the report. The will and desire of our members will decide what steps we take. We have 100 members and 150 allied members, so a lot has to be looked at," said Bob Davis, lodging association president.
The report also calls for maximizing the use of special events, such as the Daytona 500 and Bike Week as well as venues, such as Daytona International Speedway, the LPGA International golf course, the Ocean Center and the beach.
"We just have to work together and use our resources. We must target the right groups of people to come here as well as a variety of people. We must do tourism studies and see the demographics we have as well as survey our current visitors," Davis said.
According to the report, people in the industry claim the main problem is the lack of information.
The report also mentioned creating a sports commission to bring sporting events and their financial benefits.
"We have a rich sports community as well. We have venues and people but we must let others know about them. Racing is a big sport here with the Speedway. We also have LPGA as well. We have an opportunity to promote this place sports wise, too," Davis said.
Some residents on hand were skeptical of the report and feared it didn't represent the best interests of the entire county.
"It is all about the east side of the county and Daytona Beach," said Linda Dorian, past president of the Museum of Florida Art. "We have taxpayers on the west side. This report doesn't share the interests of the entire county. Our county is also more diverse with people of all races, nationality and colors."
Former Deltona Commissioner Joe Perez said, "I love this county and we have had a lot of growth especially in the Hispanic community. Here the Hispanic market is really untapped. We need to make sure we reach out to other communities. The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Volusia County, which I am a member of, can get events here that will attract 20,000 to 40,000 people."
But not everyone on the east side was enamored of the report.
Ted Doran, a board member of the Halifax Area Advertising Authority, said, "I thought that the study was disappointing and it dodged the difficult questions. The general proposition is unworkable in our community. In tourism we have failed to promote our community for the past 10 years and for the past six we have lost $1 million dollars per year."
"I am optimistic and believe that positive changes are coming," Doran said. "Our convocation center will be critical in making the changes. The private sector has to take the initiative in getting tourism going. We have an overall good product on the beach side, but we have to do things and bring in things that will get more people here."
A tourism workshop is scheduled for March 8 at the Volusia County Council Chambers in DeLand.