“We were blessed with another strong year in 2022, which is a testament to the hard work that our accommodations, restaurant, and business partners put in throughout the year,” said Matt Algarin, tourism director for the Walton County Tourism Department. “Walton County is an incredible destination and we’re proud that we can share it with our visitors, all while supporting our community through job creation and visitor spending.”
The report underscores tourism as the number one economic driver in Walton County.
More than 5.3 million visitors spent an average of $889 each day, amounting to a staggering $4.8 billion in direct spending alone. All of that added up to a $7.2 billion economic impact for the county in 2022.
For Walton County residents, this visitor spending translated into an average of $2,109 in tax savings per household. It also supported more than 47,000 in tourism-related jobs. In fact, visitor spending accounted for 76 percent of all retail spending in Walton County.
The tourism department is funded by what’s commonly referred to as a “bed tax.” In Walton County, a 5 percent bed tax is collected on all short-term rental stays of six months or less in accommodations south of Choctawhatchee Bay, as well as a 2 percent bed tax on short-term rentals north of the Bay. Walton County residents do not pay a bed tax unless they are taking a “staycation” in a local accommodation.
Bed tax funds are also used to support various community organizations and programs, such as the South Walton Fire District’s Beach Safety/Lifeguard program, the Walton County Sheriff’s Office, turtle nest monitoring, the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County, International Coastal Cleanup, the South Walton Artificial Reef Association, and various programming through the local state parks.
While the State of Florida has strict rules governing how those funds can be spent, many of the activities and amenities they support – such as bike trails, public beach accesses, lifeguards, and special events – enhance the lives of residents as well as visitors.
The tourism department’s Beach Operations team was also busy in 2022, completing more than $3.9 million in destination improvements.
This hard-working crew also maintains and cleans 20 miles of beach, 42-miles of multi-use pathways, 10 regional beach accesses, 47 neighborhoods beach accesses and 11 bay and lake access points.
Overall, investments were made in 2022 to improve, protect and sustain our prospering county, which would not be possible without a thriving tourism economy.