‘Bed tax’ collections for February set new record in Sarasota County, Tax Collector’s Office report shows

February revenue totaled almost $4.7 million, exceeding county record set in March 2021

In February, Visit Sarasota County marked the naming of Siesta Key as the No. 2 beach in the United States in the new TripAdvisor list. Image from Visit Sarasota County’s Facebook page

Already, Sarasota County’s Tourist Development Tax — or, “bed tax” — collections had set a new record for January, with revenue adding up to more than $4 million. February’s report from Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates and her staff shows that revenue for that month set a record, as well.

In fact, the February total is the highest ever collected in a single month, based on data from prior years.

For February, collections added up to $4,684,650.05, the latest reports show. That figure exceeds the February 2021 TDT total by $1,597,085.63, the reports say. The funds turned over to Ford-Coates’ office this February were approximately 52% higher than the amount collected in February 2021.

During a report to Sarasota County’s Tourist Development Council members on March 10, Sherri Smith, chief deputy tax collector, pointed out that the amount of TDT revenue taken in for March 2021 was the “highest … we have ever seen.” That figure was $4.58 million, she noted.

Through the first five months of the 2022 fiscal year — which began on Oct. 1, 2021 — the TDT collections add up to $16,286,660.58, the latest reports show. That amount is up $6,141,018.50, compared to the figure for the first five months of the 2021 fiscal year.

From Oct. 1, 2020 through the end of February 2021, the total amount of TDT revenue turned over to Ford-Coates’ office was $9,961,227.03, the reports noted at that time. Thus, the funds through February of this year are almost 64% higher than that figure.

The 5% Tourist Development Tax (TDT) is charged on rentals of accommodations for six months or less time.

Among other data in the latest reports, the collections from Airbnb hosts in the county for this fiscal year through February total $1,976,393.69. That number is about 47% higher than the $1,342,900.86 turned over to Ford-Coates’ staff for the first five months of the 2021 fiscal year.

Further, the revenue totals for December 2021 and January in the new reports jumped a bit, compared to earlier figures. The previous update from the Tax Collector’s Office showed that the December total was up $1,187,625.60, compared to the amount collected for December 2020. The new reports say the month-over-month increase is $1,205,224.71, which is about 15% higher.

The January TDT revenue amount shown in the March reports was up $1,466,968.19, compared to the January 2021 total. However, the new data show that total is higher by $1,597,085.63, an uptick just shy of 9%.

Ford-Coates and her staff point out that audits and other enforcement actions can lead to changes in figures from month to month.

This is the new Tourist Development Tax comparison report. Image courtesy Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates

As for the collections by location: Traditionally, Siesta Key and the City of Sarasota wage a figurative competition over which will have brought in the highest amount of Tourist Development Tax revenue by the end of a fiscal year. In the latest reports, the city is ahead, with 27.28%; Siesta’s share is 24.02%.

Additionally, while rentals through online platforms such as Airbnb and Vrbo.com accounted for 21.06% of the revenue total in the previous report, that has dropped to 19.8% in the most recent data.

According to the agreements forged between Sarasota County and the online platforms, only Airbnb is willing to provide its revenue total each month to the Tax Collector’s Office. The arrangement that the county forged with HomeAway and TripAdvisor, as well as all of their subsidiaries — including Vrbo.com — says that no details can be shared about amounts collected by hosts with the individual platforms.

This is the latest Tourist Development Tax report showing collections by location. Image courtesy Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates

The Airbnb amount each month is included with the totals from all the other platforms in the Tax Collector’s Office’s TDT locations report.

Virginia Haley, president of the county’s tourism office, Visit Sarasota County, provided the following details to local government leaders about the research undertaken on behalf of that office for February. One of those figures also represented a record:

  • The average daily rate for lodging in February was the highest for a single month average in Visit Sarasota County history, Haley noted: $294.82, a 43% jump from the February 2021 rate.
  • The number of visitors in February was 127,300, a 3.2% increase, compared to the figure for February 2021.
  • Visitors’ direct expenditures added up to $180,159,500, a 17.4% hike, compared to the amount for February 2021.
  • Lodging occupancy was 87.6%, a 15.4% increase, compared to the figure for February 2021.
  • Altogether, 343,400 rooms were sold, which marked a 14.9% uptick, compared to the number for February 2021.