‘Bed tax’ revenue continues to lag behind 2023 fiscal year figure for first three months of FY 2024

December’s collections drop about 9%, compared to total for December 2022

This is the Tourist Development Tax comparison report for December 2023. Image courtesy Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates

For the third month in a row, Sarasota County’s Tourist Development Tax — or, “bed tax” — revenue is down, compared to the same month of the previous fiscal year, as shown in the latest reports from Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates and her staff.

Collections for December 2023 added up to $3,528,591.03, which marked a $346,332.23 decline — about 9% — from the December 2022 total of $3,874,923.26, the latest data show.

Through the first three months of this fiscal year — which began on Oct. 1, 2023 — the Tourist Development Tax (TDT) revenue is lower by $1,749,524.51 than it was for the same three months of the 2023 fiscal year, the reports note.

The collections added up to $8,963,343.30 for that first quarter of this fiscal year, the reports show. That is down close to 14%, compared to the figure of $10,447,343.74 recorded for the collections from October, November and December 2022.

The bed tax revenue hit a new record in the 2023 fiscal year. In fact, the latest data show that the collections were even higher than noted in the earlier reports. The figure has climbed to $50,059,157.50, the highest total ever for the TDT revenue in a fiscal year. That tally was up approximately 24%, compared to the $40,309,615.36 collected in the 2023 fiscal year.

Ford-Coates and her staff have explained that audits and other enforcement actions can produce revised figures from one monthly report to the next.

For other examples, the collections for both October and November 2022 are higher in the new reports. The October figure rose from $2,480,454.44 in the previous data to $2,496,173.24 in the latest reports.

The November total in the initial data on that month was $2,893,439.38; the new reports put it at $3,528,591.03.

Among other information in the latest data, the amount of money that Airbnb has turned over to Ford-Coates and her staff from its hosts thus far this fiscal year adds up to $1,514,384.81. That is down nearly 12%, compared to the tally of $1,711,355.20 shown for the first quarter of the 2023 fiscal year.

Altogether, through December 2023, the collections from online rental platforms made up 23.45% of the bed tax total, the new reports show. The figure for the same three months of the 2023 fiscal year was slightly lower — 23.23%.

These are the collections by location. Image courtesy Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates

Along with Airbnb, the county has contracts with HomeAway.com and TripAdvisor to turn over the money collected by their hosts, including those working through the companies’ subsidiaries. However, the firms’ agreements with the county do not require them to report how much each of their rental platforms collects.

As for the figurative battle between the City of Sarasota and Siesta Key regarding which will account for the largest percentage of the bed tax each fiscal year, the city remained ahead through December, with 28.05% of the total; Siesta Key’s figure was 22.08%.

During the same period of the 2023 fiscal year, the city had accounted for 29.03% of the collections, compared to Siesta’s 20.07%.

Along with the regular reports released by the Tax Collector’s Office, Visit Sarasota County, the county’s tourism office, receives a set of monthly data provided by a Tallahassee firm, Downs & St. Germain, that focuses on other details about tourism.

The December update from that firm noted that the number of visitors in Sarasota County was down 13.5% — from 100,200 in December 2022 to 86,640 in December 2023.

Additionally, the visitors’ direct expenditures fell 8.4%, month-over-month. In December 2022, the figure was $139,457,400; in December 2023, the total was $127,698,800, Downs & St. Germain noted.

However, the firm pointed out, direct spending was up 4.5% for the first three months of this fiscal year, compared to the tally for the same period of the 2023 fiscal year.

Occupancy of accommodations dropped 11.1%, from 65.9% in December 2022 to 58.6% in December 2023, the firm added. Yet, the average room rate was lower in December 2023 by 2.4% — $257.75 — compared to the December 2022 figure of $264.13.

Each month, Downs & St. Germain staff also checks with property managers of accommodations in the county, to learn their outlook on the next three months. The December report said that the results of that outreach found that 62% of general managers reported “similar demand as last year.”

On one positive note: Downs & St. Germain pointed out that most international tourism “continues to rebound.” For example, the firm said, the number of visitors from Canada through the first three months of the 2024 fiscal year rose 11%, compared to the count for the first quarter of the 2023 fiscal year.

Moreover, the figure for visitors from Central Europe is up 13.4%, the company reported. However, the firm said, the number of tourists from other parts of Europe was down by 8%.