Total through September just shy of $50 million
With the final month’s data in, the Sarasota County Tax Collector’s Office has reported that the Sarasota County Tourist Development Tax — or, “bed tax” — revenue totaled $49,969,141.45 for the 2023 fiscal year, which ended on Sept. 30.
The figure marks an increase of $9,661,460.52 over the amount that the county received in the 2022 fiscal year. Except for the 2020 fiscal year, which was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the county has had a long series of new records for the Tourist Development Tax (TDT) revenue. As The Sarasota News Leader has noted, three months before the 2023 fiscal year ended, the money turned over to the Tax Collector’s Office had established yet another record.
The 2023 fiscal year total is almost 24% higher than the FY 2022 record of $40,307,680.93. The 2021 fiscal year record was $31,060,231.89, as noted in the latest reports from Ford-Coates and her staff.
Coincidentally, the difference between the FY 2021 total and the FY 2022 total was also higher than $9 million — $9,216,936.19, as the Tax Collector’s Office reported in the fall of 2022.
The revenue is generated by a 6% tax on accommodations in the county that are rented for six months or less time. The funds are used for a variety of purposes, including beach maintenance and renourishment; upkeep of the two Major League Baseball Spring Training facilities — in Sarasota and Wellen Park, near North Port; and promotion of the county to visitors.
Among other details in the latest reports, the total TDT revenue turned over by Airbnb from its hosts in the county for the 2023 fiscal year was $6,976,986.88. That figure is up by slightly more than 38%, compared to the amount that the Tax Collector’s Office reported at the end of September 2022: $5,048,492.08.
Altogether, through the 2023 fiscal year, online rental platforms accounted for 21.05% of the TDT revenue, the new reports point out. That compares to the figure of 19.77% at the end of September 2022.
Under the terms of its agreement with the county, Airbnb does not identify its hosts. The other rental platforms with which the county has agreements are TripAdvisor and HomeAway and all of their subsidiaries. Those documents do not require the companies to specify publicly how much revenue each has collected.
Over the years, the City of Sarasota and Siesta Key have waged a figurative battle over which can collect the largest amount of the funds. Most years, Siesta Key has prevailed; however, the city “won” in the 2022 fiscal year, with 27.53% of the total; Siesta had 25.9%.
For the 2023 fiscal year, the city prevailed again, with 26.41% of the money, compared to Siesta’s 25.39%.
The latest reports also show upticks in increases month-over-month. For example, the previous data put the March revenue total at $1,109,261, compared to the total for March 2022. The new reports show that increase to be $1,118,047.80, which is almost 0.08% higher.
An even bigger hike is reflected in the latest figure for August. That month’s revenue was up $281,174.95, compared to the collections’ total in August 2022. The previous reports put the month-over-month increase at $186,996.08. Thus, the new figure marks a 50% jump, month-over-month.
Ford-Coates and her staff have explained that audits and other enforcement actions can lead to changes in the figures over time.
Along with the Tax Collector’s Office monthly reports, Visit Sarasota County — the county’s tourism office — utilizes a Tallahassee firm, Downs & St. Germain, to provide other details about visitors to the county.
The September data from Downs & St. Germain show that the total number of tourists that month was 122,030, which is a 20.5% hike, compared to the September 2022 figure of 101,300.
Further, those visitors’ direct spending climbed 25.9%, month-over-month. This September, the amount was $97,506,900; in September 2022, it was $77,444,800.
The following are among other details in that report:
- The number of room nights sold in September was 220,900, which represented a 15.7% increase, compared to the September 2022 total of 190,900.
- The average room rate this September was $216.35, up 22%, compared to the September 2022 average of $177.35.
- The occupancy rate climbed by 6.9% in September, to 54.4%, compared to the figure of 50.9% in September 2022.
Even with the strong data at the end of the 2023 fiscal year, Downs & St. Germain representatives learned that general managers of accommodations in September were less optimistic about tourism in the next three months, with nearly 94% of them saying they expected decreased demand.
On the positive side, the firm reported that the tally of international visitors to the county climbed again in the 2023 fiscal year, especially the number from Central Europe. The uptick for the latter group was 61.1%, Downs & St. Germain noted.