‘Bed tax’ revenue down only about 11% for the 2020 fiscal year, compared to 2019 total

September’s collections come in higher than figure for September 2019

The county’s beaches are not the only attractions that Visit Sarasota County promotes to tourists. In a Nov. 6 post on Facebook, Visit Sarasota County notes, ‘There’s something so peaceful about an art #museum’ and tags The Ringling. Image courtesy Visit Sarasota County via Facebook

With the final month’s figures in, Sarasota County staff has found its dire predictions for the novel coronavirus’ impact on Tourist Development Tax — or, “bed tax” — revenue for the 2020 fiscal year to have been well off the mark.

Instead of month-over-month declines in the summer and fall ranging from 60% down to 30%, the total drop in Tourist Development Tax (TDT) revenue is only about $2.4 million — close to 11% — compared to the overall collections in the 2019 fiscal year.

The final TDT tally, based on data reported to the Sarasota County Tax Collector’s Office, was $20,963,404.38 for the fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30. In the 2019 fiscal year, the total was $23,378,665.01, another new record in a line of new records that stretched for more than a decade.

The 5% “bed tax” is collected on accommodations rented for six months or less time.

In late May, with worries about the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the hospitality industry, staff of the county’s Office of Financial Management had predicted that the September Tourist Development Tax (TDT) collections would be 30% lower than those in September 2019. Instead, they were about 30% higher.

Entities from across the county turned over $1,152,280.92 to Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates’ staff, their latest report says. That compares to the September 2019 figure of $883,118.76.

These are the figures for Tourist Development Tax collections through the 2020 fiscal year, as provided by Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates.

In other positive news, the Tax Collector’s Office’s latest data show the collections for August came in higher than initially noted. Instead of the original month-over-month uptick of $133,784.97, the revised total showed a climb of $156,849.12, compared to the figure for August 2019.

Further, while the previous report noted that collections in July were down $314.12, compared to the figure for July 2019, the new data put the revenue for July of this year up $1,443.98, compared to the total for July 2019.

Ford-Coates and her staff have explained that audits and other enforcement actions can lead to changes in the reports from month to month.

The latest data also show that Airbnb collections for the 2020 fiscal year added up to $1,792,348.50. The total through August was $1,565,733.66.

In their report for September 2019, Ford-Coates’ staff put the Airbnb collections at $1,664,256.33. Thus, the Fiscal Year 2020 total is about 7.7% higher than the Fiscal Year 2019 amount.

Altogether, TDT revenue brought in by accommodations rented through online platforms, including HomeAway and TripAdvisor, added up to $3,107,282.55, Ford-Coates’ staff noted in the new report. That represented 14.82% of total TDT revenue for the 2020 fiscal year, the report said.

As for the figurative competition between accommodations on Siesta Key and those in the city of Sarasota, the new data show the city barely edging out Siesta. The city accommodations accounted for 27.77% of the fiscal year total, while Siesta entities collected 27.74%, the report says.

City of Sarasota entities also “won” the 2019 fiscal year competition.

This is the latest Tourist Development Tax collection data, denoted by location. Image courtesy Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates

In her September report to community leaders, Virginia Haley, president of the county’s tourism office, Visit Sarasota County, also had plenty of positive data. However, Haley pointed out, “Just as with [August’s] numbers, it is important to remember that September 2019 saw very poor tourism numbers. That said, I prefer presenting positive numbers.”

In September, Haley wrote, “[W]e welcomed 65,000 visitors who stayed in paid lodging, a 2.8% increase from September 2019.”

Visitors’ direct spending for September was $41,733,100, a 5.5% uptick from the figure for September 2019, Haley added.

The September occupancy was 44.1%, a 1.8% increase, compared to the figure for September 2019, she continued.

The average daily room rate for September was $133.70, Haley noted, a 10.7% increase from the September 2019 amount.

Finally, Haley reported that in September, the number of room nights sold was 156,900, a 0.1% increase from the September 2019 figure.