OKALOOSA COUNTY, Fla. (WKRG) — Okaloosa County set a record in 2021 for tourism spending and overnight lodging tax.

More than 5 million visitors travel to Okaloosa County every year. In 2021, the number hit 7.5 million visitors, increasing tourist spending by 30 percent from 2020 for a total of $736 million, 28 percent more than 2019.

“That is direct spend into the community into the restaurants charter captains our stores which grows our economy on top of the tourism development tax.”

Jennifer Adams, Director of Destin Fort Walton Beach Tourism

The Tourism Development Tax, or bed tax, is 5 cents on the dollar for overnight stays shorter than 6 months.

“This year we had a record year,” said Adams. “We increased our collection almost 74 percent over 2020. What is even more important is it was 41 percent over 2019.”

Adams with the Tourism Development Council (TDC) gives credit for the increase in tourists coming out after the pandemic year and increasing hotel rates.

“We don’t talk about the rate or sell anything here we promote,” said Adams. “I tell the bed tax partners I will bring people here for you, you set the rate accordingly. But with a higher rate, you have to have a higher level of service.”

In the TDC’s $23M budget, $7.5M went to promoting Destin and Fort Walton Beach. The rest is spent on beach restoration, cleaning parks, and capital projects.

Adams says the TDC is hard at work for the 2022 season. They say a new focus is targetting millennial moms searching for an outdoor escape.

“More than 50 percent of the nation’s children spent less time outside than prison inmates,” said Adams. “on top of that 49 percent of their parents don’t know how to play with their children. That is a shocking statistic”

The TDC started new programs like Little Adventures to make a vacation on the Emerald Coast even more fun. 

You can find the latest little adventure on the Visit Destin Fort Walton Beach website.

To host a little adventure in Okaloosa County or get in touch with the TDC, click here. You can also send an email, marketing@destinfwb.com.