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Bed tax increase for Okaloosa means good things for tourist season

Okaloosa County saw a double-digit increase in bed taxes collected from May of last year to May of this year. And that could mean good things for the county for the rest of the tourist season.

In may, Okaloosa County collected $1.44 million dollars in bed taxes, an increase of nearly 14% over last year. Those taxes, according to tourism director Ed Schroeder, are used to make the county more attractive to future visitors.

Says tourism director Ed Schroeder, "it's spent in quite a few different ways. It's spent for marketing the destination, for insuring the destination stays in the best possible quality that we can put it in. We keep the beaches clean, we keep them safe with lifeguards."

Schroeder says the collections for the entire year could continue to rise.

"So far we're up about seven percent. I think that number's going to get up even higher. I believe by the end of the year we stand a pretty good chance of being eight, nine percent above where we were last year."

The increase could signal one of the most successful tourism years in recent history. That could help everyone, not just those on the coast.

Schroeder says "instead of all of us having to shoulder the costs of the services the county provides, we pass quite a bit of that onto our tourists through the various sales taxes that were collected, the local option sales tax."

Tourists visiting the area say if it makes the area better for vacation, they're on board.

Craig Woolever, for Austin, Texas, said "I mean, charge a little extra, it helps keep jobs, it helps keep businesses open. I'm good."

Schroeder says with tourism going so well over the summer, the county will soon shift its focus to attracting more guests in the fall.