"We expect a full accounting."
We are right smack dab in the middle of tax season here in the United States of America. A celebration of civic responsibility. Oh it feels good to see what the government, both local and national, does with the public money. New roads without a crack in sight. Sparkling schools filled to overflowing with youth hungry to learn. Or for the lucky people of Brevard County, Florida the gorgeous marketing of a surf contest.
But would you believe there are some grumpy grouches who are upset by this expenditure and let’s read about them. Let’s get ready to shake our tanned fists at haters.
Some members of Brevard County’s tourism advisory board are questioning the amount of money the Space Coast Office of Tourism spent to promote the second annual Florida Pro Surf competition at Sebastian Inlet State Park in January.
Office of Tourism Marketing Director Tiffany Minton told members of the advisory Tourist Development Council that the agency spent about $280,000 for event costs and marketing for the surfing competition at Sebastian Inlet and for a related event, the Florida Pro Music Fest, held Jan. 19 in Cocoa Beach.
The money comes from the county’s 5 percent Tourist Development Tax on hotel rooms and other short-term rentals.
Tourist Development Council member Giles Malone questioned whether the return on investment justifies that large an expenditure.
“It’s just not there for me,” said Malone, who is a partner at the Space Coast Daily media company, and a partner at Brevard Productions, an event and sports management production company.
“I support the surfing industry and always have,” said Malone, who is former president of Cocoa Beach Pier, where a number of surfing competitions have been held, and is a former chairman of the TDC.
But Malone said he wants to be sure the tourist tax money is spent appropriately.
Tourist Development Council member and Brevard County Commission Vice Chair Bryan Lober said he shares Malone’s concern about the limitations for measuring the return on investment.
Lober said he would like to see more detailed metrics than Minton provided at Wednesday’s TDC meeting before supporting that level of Tourist Development Tax spending on the surfing competition next January.
Minton said 9,051 visitors came to the north side of Sebastian Inlet State Park, located at the south end of Brevard County, from Jan. 13-18, in conjunction with the Florida Pro Surf competition. The World Surf League Qualifying Series event attracted a total of 152 male and female competitors.
But Lober said that an undetermined number of people would have visited the area anyway — with or without the surf competition.
TDC Chair Tim Deratany said after the meeting that he was surprised to hear that the level of spending on Florida Pro events reached as high as Minton indicated, especially with the added spending on the Florida Pro Music Fest.
“I was very concerned,” said Deratany, a former member of the Florida Senate and Florida House. “I want a good accounting for it.”
Deratany said the TDC and its Marketing Committee “will be looking at that very closely” before deciding whether to financially support Florida Pro Surf events in the future, especially with what he described as the TDC’s “frugal” spending for arts organizations.
Minton said about 800 nights of hotel rooms were rented by Florida Pro Surf competitors and staff members for the January event. Those figures do not count room rentals by families and friends of competitors and other spectators.
Minton detailed for the TDC the various marketing tactics to promote the event, including on a Florida Pro Surf website, as well as on Facebook, Instagram, the World Surf League and Surfline.com websites, online ads, billboards and email. Minton also cited the stories in the news media and the social media posts by surfing “influencers,” such as Melbourne Beach native Caroline Marks, who won the women’s Florida Pro Surf event in both 2018 and 2019.
Additionally, there were a total of 81,034 views registered for the live-stream webcast of the event on the World Surf League website and the Florida Pro Surf Facebook page.
800 hotel rooms which may or may not have been occupied by folk traveling to the Space Coast for the surf contest + 81,034 views = massive success.
Suck it, haters.