TDC Debit Cards Going Fast in Okaloosa County

Posted on by Susie

Posted on The Destin Log, written by Dusty Ricketts.

Tourists and locals likely only have a few days left to take advantage of the Okaloosa County Tourist Development Council’s Emerald Money debit card program.

The TDC restarted the program last week. It offers a $200 debit card to people who book a minimum two-night stay at an approved lodging in the county.

“The debit card promotion is going very well and smoothly,” said Mark Bellinger, executive director of the TDC. “Everybody’s extremely happy we did the restart. Everyone was for it. It was the right thing to do. It is helping out our economy. When you take a million dollars and put it right back into the community, it helps a lot of private businesses.”

The program is designed to increase fall tourism to make up for a dismal summer because of the BP oil spill.

The promotion initially kicked off last month, but was stopped after only two days when it was discovered that some lodging properties did not follow the program’s guidelines. After some adjustments, including having guests reserve their debit card online rather than the lodgings, the promotion restarted Oct. 7.

The program had 3,793 cards remaining from the original 5,000 that were available at the beginning. As of 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, 1,660 cards remained.

About 315 cards are being reserved each day. If that rate holds, they will be gone in about five days.

Some 200 establishments that collect bed taxes in Okaloosa County have signed up to participate.

“We were real excited to see that start up again,” said Eric Outzen, director of sales and marketing for Dale E. Peterson Vacations. “It started off pretty well for us a couple weeks ago when they initially launched. We were disappointed they had to shut it down temporarily. So picking back up, it has been beneficial to us in increasing our bookings for this fall.

“It’s been a successful campaign,” Outzen added. “We’re glad to have the help. I think it’s going to do what it was designed to do, which is improve the area’s economy, at least in the next month.”

The cards are available on a first come, first served basis to people who book and pay for a minimum two-night stay until Nov. 7.

The cards can be spent anywhere in the county.

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