PASCO COUNTY, Fla. -- More than one million people visited Pasco County between October 2018 and September 2019. That's according to an economic impact and visitor tracking report prepared for Florida's Sports Coast by Downs & St. Germain Research.

  • Tourism generated more than $652 million in economic impact
  • Sporting events were 2nd most popular reason to visit
  • Number of visitors flying in via TIA jumped from 7 percent in 2018 to 15 percent in 2019
  • More Pasco County stories

"The perception of the county and the destination is changing. What we were two and a half years ago, three years ago, is not what we are today," said Adam Thomas, the county's director of tourism.

According to the report, 24 percent of visitors came to see friends or family, 14 percent came for a sporting event, and 9 percent came for a special occasion. Sports tourism saw a 9 percent increase from the previous year.

That figure comes just months after the tourism bureau re-branded to "Florida's Sports Coast."

"It's going to keep getting bigger as we continue to grow because we still have our Wesley Chapel Wiregrass Ranch Sports Complex that is going to be finishing construction towards the end of next year," said Thomas.

That project, along with the under-construction Sarah Vande Berg Tennis Center in Zephyrhills, is expected to join AdventHealth Center Ice as part of the county's sports facility offerings next year.

As far as economic impact, the report shows tourism generated more than $652 million in economic impact in the county, more than 1.2 million room nights in paid accommodations, and more than $3 million in tourist development tax. It states tourists helped save residents $310 per household in taxes.

The most popular destinations were Wesley Chapel and New Port Richey, which each saw 35 percent of the county's visitors.

"Wesley Chapel was all cows for a long time, and now I'm starting to see, of course, build up. The restaurants and the malls have definitely built up Wesley Chapel," said Lisa Moore, market director of sales for the Hilton Garden Inn and Hampton Inn & Suites near the ice rink and Tampa Premium Outlets. "Actually, we just had a full sell-out in both of our hotels, which is very exciting."

Thomas said a future goal is conducting an internal audit to get more information about how tourism is impacting local stakeholders.

"Whether that be lodging accommodations, restaurants, or retail, we want to know what the business community and also what the residents feel, the residents' sentiment of tourism in the county," he said.