FORT WALTON BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- Panhandle officials say record numbers of tourists visited northwest Florida this past year.
Walton County collected $16.5 million in bed taxes from October 2011 through September 2012. That broke the record $13.9 million collected in the previous fiscal year.
Okaloosa County brought in $13.2 million in bed taxes, compared with $11.6 million the previous year. Santa Rosa County also improved its bed tax collections from $1.03 million to $1.19 million.
Santa Rosa County Tourism Development Council director Kate Wilkes tells the Northwest Florida Daily News (http://bit.ly/TVcUeQ) that money from BP after the 2010 oil spill helped promote the Panhandle in markets where officials previously could not afford to advertise, such as Atlanta and Tennessee.
Santa Rosa County also is promoting its eco-tourism options such as zip-lining, biking and reef diving.