Manatee Tours

Crystal River offers the best location to see and interact with the Florida manatee, a subspecies of the West Indian manatee. Despite a drop in visitors due to the pandemic, Citrus County fared better than other areas and it appears tourists are coming back.

Last year saw a substantial drop-off of regional and foreign visitors to Citrus County due to the pandemic.

But all things considered, tourism tax revenue collections weren’t all that bad. And conditions look bright going forward.

From October to January 2019-20, the county netted $508,928. For the same four months for 2020-21, revenue is already $569,981. That’s an increase of $61,000 or 12%.

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For the entire 2019-20, total revenue was $1.88 million, down from $1.91 million (1.47%) from fiscal year 2018-19.

“When you consider everything, that's an amazing show for the county as a tourism product because many other counties were off double-digit percentages in their collections,” said John Pricher, Citrus County Visitors Bureau director. “To only be off that much is really a tribute to our industry.”

The tourist tax is levied on people who stay at hotels, motels, campgrounds, RV parks and short-term rentals in Citrus County. The tax is mostly borne by tourists and has no impact on residents.

County commissioners in 2018 increased the tourist tax from 3% to 5%. 

Pricher will update the Citrus County Tourist Development Council (TDC)  on the bed tax picture and other items during its meeting at 9 a.m. Wednesday, March 10, in Room 166 of the Lecanto Government Center, 3600 W. Sovereign Path.

Also at Wednesday’s meeting:

Each year, the Citrus County Tourist Development Council (TDC) provides money to representatives with local organizations and events so they can market outside the county and attract visitors.

This time around, the TDC received five new applications for funding: $7,500 each for the annual Crystal River Jam, Crystal River Songwriter Festival and Dragon Boat Festival; $1,500 each for the Manatee Festival and Strawberry Festival.

The TDC board will consider those requests during the meeting.

In addition, there are three grant awards from the previous funding cycle that were not used. Representatives from each of those events were contacted and told those grants are still available. They are $1,500 each for the Stone Crab Jam, Xtreme Triathalon and the Homosassa Arts Festival.

If approved by the board, the money will come out of the TDC’s special projects fund, which stands at $202,066.

To view the entire TDC agenda, visit https://bit.ly/2OCN8D6.

Contact Chronicle reporter Michael D. Bates at 352-563-3205 or mbates@chronicleonline.com. To see more of his stories, visit  tinyurl.com/y6kb23vv.