‘Bed tax’ revenue down again for month of April

Through first 7 months of this fiscal year, total about 5% lower than for same period of 2024 fiscal year

Image courtesy Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates

After month-over-month increases for February and March, the Sarasota County Tourist Development Tax — or, “bed tax” — revenue took another dip in April, as shown in the latest reports issued by Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates and her staff.

April’s collections added up to $4,454,536.08, which was down by $676,447.33 — about 13.2% — compared to the $5,130,983.41 turned over to the Tax Collector’s Office for April 2023, the reports note.

With five months of this fiscal year remaining, the total TDT revenue collected through April was $32,930,909.98. That is nearly 5% lower than the tally through April 2023: $34,567,275.85.

Last year, the bed tax revenue set another record, adding up to $50,062,348.98. For about a decade prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2020, the collections set one record after another, as county Office of Financial Management staff has noted.

The 6% Tourist Development Tax is charged on rentals of accommodations for six months or less time. A county ordinance governs the use of the revenue. Funds pay for beach maintenance, upkeep of the two Major League Baseball Spring Training stadiums in the county and promotion of the county to visitors, among other initiatives.

Another detail in the new reports is that Airbnb hosts collected $4,506,343.01 through April. That is up almost 2.9%, compared to the figure of $4,380,334.74 through April 2023.

Altogether, rentals of accommodations through all of the online platforms with which the county has payment agreements added up to 20.89% of the bed tax revenue total through April, the reports show. Along with Airbnb, the county collects funds from hosts associated with TripAdvisor and HomeAway, plus all of those companies’ subsidiaries, including Vrbo.com.

The percentage through April for all of the platforms is slightly higher than it was for the same period of the 2023 fiscal year: 20.24%.

Image courtesy Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates

Additionally, the latest reports note that Siesta Key has overtaken the City of Sarasota in the share of TDT revenue that the two locations’ accommodations have produced thus far this fiscal year. Siesta’s figure is 26.87%; for the city, it is 25.03%.

The city and Siesta Key wage a battle for bragging rights over which has the highest amount by the end of each fiscal year.

Through April 2023, the city remained ahead of Siesta. The city then was responsible for 26.47% of the revenue, while Siesta accommodations accounted for 24.8%.

The past two fiscal years, the city has prevailed over Siesta.

Among other data in the latest reports, the Tax Collector’s Office shows slightly higher revenue tallies for both February and March. The initial collections figure for March was $7,769,563.24. The new reports put the total at $7,819,390.76, which is an increase of about 0.6%.

The February change was even smaller. The prior report put the figure at $6,000,633.89. The new total is $6,007,113.75, which is higher by only about 0.1%.

Ford-Coates and her staff have explained that audits and other enforcement actions can result in modified numbers from one month to the next.

Along with the monthly reports that the Tax Collector’s Office issues, a Tallahassee firm, Downs & St. Germain Research, provides data to Visit Sarasota County, which is the county’s tourism office.

In the April summary, Downs & St. Germain noted that tourism “remains depressed for the fiscal year,” adding that, from October 2023 through April, the number of visitors overall is down 9.9%.

Nonetheless, the company pointed out, the number of visitors from Canada, the United Kingdom and Central Europe was higher through April than it was for the same period of the 2023 fiscal year. For Canada, the jump was 12.1%; for the United Kingdom, 4.6%; and for Central Europe, 9%.

Yet, the company also reported that its monthly check-ins with property managers found that they “were less optimistic about the next three months,” with 62% of general managers anticipating similar demand, compared to the same period of the 2024 fiscal year, “and 38% reporting reduced demand.”

Downs & St. Germain offered the following statistics for April:

  • The number of visitors declined 11.7% for that month, compared to the total for April 2023. The April count this year was 120,800; for April 2023, it was 136,800.
  • Visitors’ direct expenditures were down only 1.8%, however — from $177,372,100 in April 2023 to $174,210,500 for this April.
  • Room occupancy dropped 9.5%. The figure for April 2023 was 73.9%; for this April, 66.9%.
  • The average room rate was higher this April: $297.37. That marked a 1.4% uptick from the April 2023 average of $293.33.
  • The number of room nights sold fell 5.7%. In April 2023, the tally was 332,400; this April, it was 313,400.