‘Bed tax’ recovers even more in July, latest data show

Tourist Development Tax collections down about 14%, compared to same period of 2019 fiscal year

Fireworks explode over Siesta Key Public Beach on July Fourth in 2012. This year, because of concerns about the novel coronavirus, most July Fourth fireworks displays were cancelled in the county. Those events usually draw tens of thousands of visitors. Photo contributed by Peter van Roekens

With two months remaining in the fiscal year, Sarasota County’s Tourist Development Tax — or “bed tax” — revenue is down about $2.9 million, compared to the total for the entire 2019 fiscal year.

That information is shown in the latest reports issued by Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates and her staff.

Through July, the county took in $18,456,333.17, the reports say. In 2019, the Tourist Development Tax (TDT) revenue added up to $21,321,250.23 through July. Thus, the drop year-over-year for the same period is approximately 14%.

The 5% bed tax is charged on rentals of accommodations for six months or less time. The fall in collections figures in recent months has been related directly to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota County, the county’s tourism office, has pointed out.

The total TDT revenue for the 2019 fiscal year was $23,378,098.01, which was a record. The county set new marks each year for more than a decade, county staff has told the County Commission.

In a document provided to the county’s Tourist Development Council this week, county staff estimates that overall TDT revenue this fiscal year — from Oct. 1, 2019 through Sept. 30 — will be $19,459,147.

July’s TDT figure is down $42,451.31, compared to the amount of revenue reported in July 2019, the Tax Collector’s Office data show. That drop is only about 2.5%, month-over-month. This July, the TDT revenue added up to $1,710,621, the Tax Collector’s Office reports say.

In April, the TDT total plummeted 87.5%, compared to the amount of money collected in April 2019. In May, the month-over-month decrease was 52.5%.

Among other good news in the latest data is the fact that the TDT revenue decrease in June was not as steep as originally reported. Instead of a month-over-month decline of $213,429.08, it was down $201,738.94.

Ford-Coates and her staff have made clear on numerous occasions that audits and other enforcement actions can lead to revisions of the numbers as each fiscal year goes on.

For another example, the previous report put the drop for May at $843,616.97, compared to the total for May 2019. However, the new data show the total declined $836,181.87.

The March figure for this year improved a bit, as well, as shown in the new report. Instead of falling $1,610,777.06 month-over-month, the decrease was $1,600,661.36.

The TDT revenue is allocated to a variety of initiatives each year — from beach maintenance to arts and cultural program grants to upkeep at the Baltimore Orioles’ and Atlanta Braves’ Spring Training complexes in Sarasota and North Port, respectively. A portion of the money also goes to the promotion of the county to prospective visitors.

This is the latest Tourist Development Tax report. Image courtesy Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates

As for the location reports for July: The new data show that Siesta Key once again has surpassed the City of Sarasota for total TDT revenue taken in by accommodations. Siesta’s figure represented 28.17% of the total through July, while the city accounted for 27.71%, the report shows.

Siesta Key and the city figuratively battle it out for top honors each year in the final report on revenue collected by location.

The July data further note that online platforms — such as Airbnb and HomeAway — have accounted for 13.7% of the revenue thus far this fiscal year. Airbnb hosts alone have collected $1,368,042.01, the new report says.

Through June, the Airbnb total was $1,229,239.93, Ford-Coates’ staff noted. Thus, the July figure represents an increase of about 11.3%, compared to the June figure.

This is the latest TDT revenue report, by location. Image courtesy Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates

As for the July data based on research for Visit Sarasota County (VSC), Haley, the VSC president, notified community leaders that the number of visitors in paid lodging in July dropped 12%; the figure this July was 94,800, compared to 106,200 in July 2019.

Visitor spending was down 10.8%, she added, going from $88,403,100 in July 2019 to $78,894,600 in July of this year.

Lodging occupancy in July was 54.7%, down 16.9% compared to the July 2019 figure of 65.8%.

The average daily room rate for lodging this July was $168.44, an increase of 3.1%, Haley pointed out, compared to the July 2019 figure of $163.38.

The total number of rooms sold this July  was 186,800, Haley added, a 16.8% decrease from the July 2019 figure of 224,700.