‘Bed tax’ revenue down again in November, compared to same month in 2022

Total funds for first two months of this fiscal year nearly $1.5 million lower than figure for previous fiscal year

Image courtesy Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates

The Sarasota County Tourist Development Tax — or, “bed tax” — revenue for November 2023 was down $408,368.04, compared to the amount turned over to the Sarasota County Tax Collector’s Office for November 2022, the latest reports from Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates show.

The total generated in November 2022 was $3,301,807.42, while the tally for November 2023 was $2,893,439.38, which was approximately 12.4% lower.

The first date released for this fiscal year — regarding the collections for October 2023 — showed a $1,055,682.69 drop in Tourist Development Tax (TDT) revenue, compared to the amount turned over to the Tax Collector’s Office for October 2022. Thus, for the first two months of this fiscal year, the revenue has marked an overall decline of $1,464,050.73, compared to the total for the first two months of the 2023 fiscal year.

The 6% tax is charged on accommodations rented for six months or less time.

In reporting on the October tourism data it collected for Visit Sarasota County — the county’s tourism office — Tallahassee firm Downs & St. Germain Research explained that the drop in TDT revenue was a reflection of the extra workers in the county in October 2022, who were assisting with the recovery from Hurricane Ian. Many workers still were in accommodations in November 2022, Downs & St. Germain noted in its latest report for Visit Sarasota County.

By the Sept. 30, 2023 end of Fiscal Year 2023, the TDT revenue had achieved another new record — the third year in a row, the Tax Collector’s Office reports show. The FY 2023 total was $49,996,721.17, which marked a 24% jump from the FY 2022 figure of $40,309,615.36.

Among other data in the latest reports from Ford-Coates and her staff, the amount of bed tax revenue that Airbnb has collected from its hosts in the county adds up to $995,898.85 for October and November. That reflects a decline of approximately 20% from the Airbnb tally of $1,242,506.58 for the same months in 2022.

Altogether, the online rental platforms with which the county has TDT revenue collection contracts contributed 23.82% of the total for October and November 2023, the latest chart shows. For the same months in 2022, the figure was 25.43%.

Each fiscal year, the City of Sarasota and Siesta Key engage in a battle, so to speak, to be able to boast that it had brought in the most TDT revenue. The city won that figurative contest in the 2022 fiscal year, though Siesta has prevailed in most recent years.

Through November 2023, Siesta’s portion of the TDT revenue was 22.2%, well below the city’s 29.08%.

For October and November 2022, the city accounted for 29.62% of the revenue, compared to Siesta’s 18.67%.

Image courtesy Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates

One other point evident in the latest reports is that the October 2023 revenue did rise from the initial tally that Ford-Coates and her staff released in December. The original total was $2,421,548.28. The new figure is $2,480,454.44, which is up about 2.4%, compared to the previous amount.

Ford-Coates and her staff have explained that audits and other enforcement actions can produce changes in the numbers from one month to the next. Among other responsibilities, the Tax Collector’s Office staff dedicated to handling the Tourist Development Revenue spends a considerable amount of time working to ensure that every property owner who rents accommodations is paying the bed tax, Ford-Coates and Sheri Smith, chief deputy tax collector, have pointed out.

In regard to the latest Downs & St. Germain data for Visit Sarasota County, the firm said that the number of tourists was 101,140 for November 2023, down 15.6% from the 119,800 count for November 2022. However, those November 2023 visitors’ direct expenditures were higher by 19.9% — from $108,378,200 in November 2022 to $129,965,800 in November 2023. Much of that increase is attributable to “significantly higher” room rates, the Downs & St. Germain staff noted.

Among other details in the firm’s latest report are as follows:

  • Room occupancy was down 17.2%, from 72.1% in November 2022 to 59.7% in November 2023.
  • The average room rate in November 2023 was $255.74, which was higher by 18.8% than the November 2022 figure of $215.28.
  • The number of room nights sold in November 2023 was 242,800, down 13.8%, compared to the tally of 281,600 in November 2022.

Additionally, the Downs & St. Germain staff interview general managers of accommodations each month to learn their assessments of the tourism outlook for the coming three months. In November, the firm reported, property managers “were less optimistic about the next three months, with half of [general managers] reporting decreased demand.”

On the positive side, though, Downs & St. Germain pointed to the continued rebound in international tourists since the formal end of the COVID-19 pandemic. The firm said that the county experienced its largest year-over-year increase in the number traveling from Europe.