How Important is Fort Myers Beach to Tourism?

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Very important if your yardstick is bed tax revenue, the 5% tax Lee County collects on all short-term visits. From 2019 through 2022 Fort Myers Beach was the top collector of the tax, bringing in more than Estero, Fort Myers and Sanibel.

Lee County told us “due to statutory limitations, they are unable to break out Bonita Springs and Cape Coral.”

We took a close look at the numbers. Between 2019 and 2022, of the nearly $200 million collected from the bed tax in Lee County, Fort Myers Beach contributed $25.3 million to that total.

We did not include 2023 in our examination of the numbers because of Hurricane Ian. Even now in 2024 only 30% of the rooms that were available before the storm are back online.

Over those same years, 2019-2022, Fort Myers Beach received a total of $4.8 million in return for beach projects. It’s important to note that no municipality is guaranteed they will get back what they put in. In fact, no municipality is guaranteed they will get any funding at all. Municipalities have to go before the TDC and make specific requests that meet the criteria the funds can be used for.

According to TDC Board Chairman Cecil Pendergrass, by law, TDC funds that are collected must be spent the following way:
• 53.6% on tourism advertising and promotions, including the Visitors & Convention Bureau and Sports Development operations.
• 26.4% on beach and shoreline programs, including beach renourishment, maintenance and capital projects.
• 20% on baseball stadium debt service, including bond payments for the Lee Health Sports Complex and JetBlue Park, as well as major maintenance for both facilities.

In 2019, from a total of $42.7 million collected across Lee County, Fort Myers Beach collected $5.8 million of that total (13.6%). In 2020, from a total of $38.3 million collected, Fort Myers Beach collected $4.7 million of that total (12.2%). In 2021, from a total of $53.3 million collected, Fort Myers Beach collected $6.6 million of that total (12.4%). In 2022, from a total of $66.5 million collected, Fort Myers Beach collected $8.2 million (12.4%). Pre-Ian no other municipality brought in more bed tax revenue than Fort Myers Beach, according to statistics provided by Lee County.

How was that $4.8 million spent on Fort Myers Beach? In 2019, in 2 distributions, Fort Myers Beach received $1.14 million for beach and shoreline maintenance and beach erosion monitoring. In 2020, Fort Myers Beach received a total of $1.3 million, in 3 distributions, for beach and shoreline maintenance, beach erosion monitoring and beach renourishment. In 2021, in 4 distributions, Fort Myers Beach received $990,000 for beach and shoreline maintenance, beach erosion monitoring, Estero Island renourishment extension permitting and design and the palm avenue restrooms. And in 2022, Fort Myers Beach received $1.4 million for beach maintenance.

On Monday the Fort Myers Beach Town Council will approve a resolution authorizing Town Manager Andy Hyatt to make a request to the TDC for beach and shoreline maintenance. The agenda item for Monday does not specify how much money Hyatt will be asking for.

Commissioner Pendergrass says In fiscal year 2023 (post-Ian) Lee County collected $36.5 million, down 45% over fiscal year 2022. As of today, there is $60 million in reserves in the TDC budget. The board has an informal reserve policy to keep 20% of the operating budget in reserves. We requested a copy of the TDC budget but have not received it as of this printing.

17 COMMENTS

  1. It’s always been like that. The beach brings in the most and gets the lesser. I’ve heard the same arguments from many councils before this one. Good luck with changing things.

  2. We have not pushed hard enough in the past! Our town officials should make this a priority. They also should put more effort in getting the business open, and not so many restrictions.

  3. So, “due to statutory limitations” they can’t give us the numbers – public records – for two of three largest cities in the county?
    What “statutory limitations?”
    And without those numbers how is it certain the beach got the most?
    Fort Myers Beach is tourism’s most popular playground, hosting its greatest numbers, overwhelming its resources and overloading its shore. Less than $2 million a year for maintaining that resource alone is paltry.
    The public record here is incomplete.

    • Hi Marsha. You can call your Commissioner and express your support of the new pier vs. simply replacing the old, outdated pier. Thank you for your support!

  4. Imagine if those tax dollars stayed right in FMB. The incredible improvements and updates that could take place over the years. Vs a dated way of the TDC attracting vacationers that could be done with a 100k budget and use of technology. Another bloated government entity….

  5. The #1 Revenue Generator for the TDC should be treated like the #1 Revenue generator. Especially after a Major Storm. The #1 tourist attractions for revenue, should be funded by the #1 generator’s share of bed taxes. But instead, we are penalized and all this information is kept secret from the consituents of Fort Myers Beach. Just my 2 cents.

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