‘Bed tax’ revenue down about 6% for first month of 2021 fiscal year, compared to same month in previous year

Total approximately $1.1 million for October

This photo appeared on the Visit Sarasota County Facebook page on Oct. 28 with the message, ‘The average high in #mysarasota during October is 85 degrees. That is all. #endlesssummer #lovefl #siestakey’ Tourism leaders have said that the pandemic has created a greater desire among visitors to spend time outdoors. Image courtesy Visit Sarasota County via Facebook

The first Tourist Development Tax — or, “bed tax” — report the Sarasota County Tax Collector’s Office has issued for the 2021 fiscal year underscores the continuing negative effects the novel coronavirus pandemic has had on tourism.

In October 2019, the county took in $1,192,607.31 in Tourist Development Tax (TDT) revenue. In October of this year, the collections added up to $1,121,059.50, a drop of $71,547.81, according to the report the Tax Collector’s Office released this week.

The month-over-month decline is about 6%, based on Sarasota News Leader calculations.

In October 2018, with a significant red tide event killing fish and producing respiratory distress on county beaches, the TDT total was even lower, however, than it was this October. In 2018, the collections for October added up to $1,004,231.99.

October typically is a slower time of year for tourism in the community, with students back in school and no major events typically taking place.

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

Altogether, the TDT revenue collected in the 2020 fiscal year added up to $20,987,528.64, Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates’ staff has reported. That was an approximately 11% drop from the $23,378,665.01 mark set in the 2019 fiscal year. For more than a decade, the county set new TDT revenue records, Sarasota County financial management staff has noted.

The 2020 total did climb a bit from the amount listed in the previous report. Last month, the Tax Collector’s Office put the FY 2020 figure at $20,963,404.38.

Ford-Coates and her staff have explained that audits and other enforcement action can change figures from month to month.

Finally, the latest data show that Airbnb collections in October added up to $209,145.91.

In October 2018, the Airbnb figure was $89,407.44. The October 2019 figure was $169,997.23.

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

Overall, the online accommodations rental platforms — including HomeAway and TripAdvisor — accounted for $209,656.76 in October revenue, the Tax Collector’s Office data show. Thus, Airbnb rentals made up the vast majority of that total — about 99%.

Further, the location report says that entities in the city of Sarasota that collect the TDT revenue contributed 29.73% of the October funds, compared to Siesta Key entities’ 25.59% share.

Siesta Key and the city of Sarasota typically switch off on taking “first” and “second” place in that figurative competition as each fiscal year goes on.

Research undertaken for Visit Sarasota County (VSC), the county’s tourism office, also reflects the COVID-19 factor, as VSC President Virginia Haley reported this week.

This is the location report for Tourist Development Tax revenue in October. Image courtesy Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates

The number of visitors in the county this October was 76,500, she wrote the News Leader in an email. That was 15.5% lower than the figure for October 2019.

Visitors’ direct spending added up to $73,561,200, Haley noted, which was down 13.9%, compared to the total for October 2019.

Lodging occupancy was 49.3%, a drop of 13.8%, Haley added.

However, the average daily rate for lodging was $135.98, “an INCREASE,” she emphasized. That figure was up 9.2%, compared to the average daily rate in October 2019.

Finally, Haley pointed out, the number of room nights sold this October was 175,400, a 3.5% decline, compared to the figure for October 2019.