There is more than just the beach and theme parks to enjoy when visiting the Tampa Bay area, such as backwater explorations in Eastern Hillsborough County.

By Brad Stager

From theme parks with wild rides to remote nature wilderness, there’s plenty of recreation for local residents to enjoy. These attractions are also popular with visitors to the area and the Hillsborough County Tourist Development Council (TDC) works toward making them feel welcome while creating opportunities for related businesses.

The council does so by preparing a plan to develop tourism in Hillsborough County to the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) and recommends ways to spend tourism-related tax revenue.

The TDC is staffed by 11 members, including seven residents who have ties to the local tourism and hotel industries who are appointed to terms of four years by the BOCC. The council also includes elected officials from Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City, as well as the BOCC. Meetings are held quarterly, or as called by the council chair, a position occupied by the BOCC chair, which currently is Commissioner Les Miller.

Currently meetings are in a hybrid format with a quorum of TDC officials meeting in person and the public participating virtually, with the ability to comment on committee business. Meetings can be viewed online via the county’s website or YouTube channel. The next TDC meeting is on Friday, May 14 from 10:30 a.m.-12 Noon.

The most recent meeting, held on February 11, was an opportunity for members to review the financial impact of the pandemic on tourism revenue. It included a presentation by Santiago Corrada, president and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay, that had detailed hotel occupancy numbers for the region, showing tourist lodgings in Eastern Hillsborough County as faring better than those in areas more dependent on convention or theme park traffic.

“They have been performing very, very strongly throughout the entire pandemic. It’s the best performing submarket in all of Hillsborough County,” said Corrada during the meeting.

The hotel occupancy rate for Eastern Hillsborough County was down 14.6 percent in the first quarter of the fiscal year, compared to a 51.7 percent drop in downtown Tampa occupancy.

People interested in serving on the TDC when there is an opportunity to do so need to be registered to vote in the county and can access the required application and disclosure forms online at by going to the Boards and Committees section of the website. You can also call 276-2737 for more information.

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