‘Bed tax’ revenue for Sarasota County up $8.7 million through August, compared to same period of the 2021 fiscal year

Visit Sarasota County reports ‘amazing August,’ based on data from research firm it uses

Through August, Sarasota County’s Tourist Development Tax — or, “bed tax” — revenue continued to climb, ending up $8,717,273.74 higher than the amount for the same period of the 2021 fiscal year, as shown in the latest data released by Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates and her staff.

The revenue collected in August, however, was not much higher than the August 2021 figure — a month-over-month uptick of $2,981.34. This August, the revenue turned over to the Tax Collector’s Office added up to $1,794,202.80, compared to the August 2021 sum of $1,791,221.46.

With one month’s reports left for the 2022 fiscal year, the total amount of Tourist Development Tax (TDT) revenue was $38,197,527.56, Ford-Coates’ reports show.

In the 2021 fiscal year, the county set another record with TDT collections. That figure was $31,057,057.17. Thus, the amount of revenue turned over to the Tax Collector’s Office through August of this fiscal year is up almost 23%, compared to the total for the entire 2021 fiscal year.

For more than a decade, Sarasota County set a new annual record with the Tourist Development Tax collections. Then, when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, a break in those record-setting years occurred.

Additionally, the latest reports show that the amount of money just from Airbnb hosts through August of this fiscal year added up to $4,698,684.70. That figure is about 28% higher than the Airbnb amount collected through August 2021, which was $3,658,718.99, as Ford-Coates’ staff reported at that time.

Altogether, TDT revenue from online rental companies — including HomeAway.com and TripAdvisor and their subsidiaries — represented 19.72% of the total through August, Ford-Coates’ reports note. However, that number compares to the figure of 20.49% that Ford-Coates’ report showed through August 2021.

Traditionally, the City of Sarasota and Siesta Key vie for the top spot in producing TDT revenue each fiscal year. The latest data point out that the city’s portion through August was 27.17%, compared to 26.39% for Siesta Key. The city has bested Siesta in the past, but Siesta generally ends up with the largest percentage.

Among other details, the latest data show that instead of less revenue collected in July, compared to the situation in July 2021, the month-over-month comparison has become a positive one. The initial report for July said that the total TDT funds were down $9,653.83, compared to the amount turned over to the Tax Collector’s Office in July 2021. However, the new report shows that the TDT revenue actually was higher by $24,587.98 this July, compared to the amount for July 2021.

Further, the previous figure for June TDT revenue showed that it was down $86,340.39, compared to the funds collected in June 2021. The latest data show that month-over-month decrease had fallen to $66,585.66.

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

The Tourist Development Tax is charged on rentals of accommodations for six months or less time. As of Oct. 1, it rose from 5% to 6%. State government leaders allowed that increase on the basis of state law that pegs the level of tax to the amount of revenue a county takes in during a calendar year.

Visit Sarasota County data

Along with the monthly reports from the Tax Collector’s Office, the county’s tourism office, Visit Sarasota County, employs a Tallahassee research firm, Downs & St. Germain, to provide other monthly data about visitors to Sarasota County.

When The Sarasota News Leader asked Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota County, about the August report from Downs & St. Germain, she noted as she provided it that “August was amazing.”

The Downs & St. Germain findings follow:

  • The number of visitors rose 25.4% in August, compared to the total for August 2021. Further, through August, the total number of tourists coming to the county during the 2022 fiscal year was up 9.3%. The tourist total for August, Downs & St. Germain said, was 118,600; in August 2021, the figure was 94,600.
  • In August, visitors’ direct expenditures were up 20.3%, totaling $81,589,700, compared to $67,831,600 in August 2021.
  • Lodging occupancy rose 10.6% — from 54.8% in August 2021 to 60.6% this August.
  • The average room rate increased 9% — from $176,07 in August 2021 to $191.99 this August.
  • The number of room nights sold this August marked a 20.2% jump — from 195,400 in August 2021 to 234,800 this August.

The number of travelers coming to the county from international locations and the Midwest has continued to rise steadily, compared to the situation in prior years, the report also points out.

Finally, the Downs & St. Germain team noted that property owners and general managers of accommodations had mixed outlooks for the next three months. Overall, 44% said demand is down for that coming period, with 37% responding that demand is up.