‘Bed tax’ revenue hits a new record in March

More than $6.9 million collected

In March, for only the second time over the years, Sarasota County’s Tourist Development Tax — or, “bed tax” — revenue exceeded $6 million in one month, as shown in the latest data that Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates and her staff have released.

The total amount of revenue turned over to Ford-Coates’s office for March was $6,909,272.37, the data show. That is higher by $891,145.23 — or nearly 15% — than the figure for March 2022, which was $6,018,127.14, the new report says.

March 2022 was the first time that the Tax Collector’s Office had taken in more than $6 million in the bed tax revenue in a single month.

The 6% tax is charged on rentals of accommodations for six months or less time. For a number of years prior to the Oct. 1, 2022 start of this fiscal year, the tax was 5%. The funds are used for a wide variety of tourism-related purposes — from beach maintenance to the upkeep of the county’s two Major League Baseball Spring Training stadiums to the marketing of the county to visitors.

Further, the latest data show that, through the first half of the 2023 fiscal year, the “bed tax” has brought in $29,311,062.02, which is up $6,797,112.40, compared to the total for first half of the 2022 fiscal year.

The county set a new record for collections in the 2022 fiscal year: $40,307,028.31. Thus, for the first six months of this fiscal year, the county has taken in almost 73% of the TDT collections for the entire 2022 fiscal year.

For the 2021 fiscal year, funds added up to $31,057,999.18, Ford-Coates’ latest report notes.

The total TDT revenue that Ford-Coates and her staff reported for the first half of the 2022 fiscal year was $22,354,627.97. Therefore, the amount of bed tax money turned over to the Tax Collector’s Office from Oct. 1, 2022 through March marked a 31% jump, compared to the figure for the same months in the 2022 fiscal year.

Yet another detail in the latest reports is the amount of money that Airbnb has collected since the start of this fiscal year. Through March, that figure is $3,794,671.80, which marks a jump of nearly 49%, compared to the total for the same six months of the 2022 fiscal year: $2,553,117.58.

Altogether, rentals of accommodations through online platforms, including Airbnb and those advertised through TripAdvisor and HomeAway.com — plus their subsidiaries — accounted for 20.67% of the TDT funds through March. Traditionally, the City of Sarasota and Siesta Key wage a figurative battle to see which can “win” the bed tax collections competition each fiscal year. Through March, the city remained in front, with 26.73% of the total. Entities that collect the bed tax on Siesta Key took in 23.5% of the money through March, Ford-Coates’ new reports show.

For the same period of the 2022 fiscal year, the online platforms had accounted for 18.89% of the TDT total, with the city at 27.34% and Siesta at 24.76%.

Among other facets of the latest reports, the month-over-month increase in collections for February has risen to $1,135,772.04, compared to the $1,119,546.99 uptick shown in the initial update from Ford-Coates’ staff.

Additionally, the month-over-month hike for January has climbed from $1,364,887.58 in the prior report to $1,382,903.65 in the latest report.

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

Along with the reports from the Tax Collector’s Office, Visit Sarasota County — the county’s tourism office — issues data each month that has been collected on its behalf by staff of Downs & St. Germain Research in Tallahassee.

That report for March provides the following information:

  • The number of visitors this year was down 7.9%, compared to the total for March 2022. This March, the figure was 158,100.
  • Visitors’ direct spending was put at $221,075,900 for March, which marked a 10.6% decrease, compared to the total of $247,379,200 in March 2022.
  • The room occupancy rate in March declined 5%, to 84.7%, compared to 89.2% in March 2022.
  • The average room rate in March dropped 7.4%, to $313.37, compared to the figure of $338.27 in March 2022.
  • The number of room nights sold was down 7.3%, to 379,600, compared to 409,600 in March 2022.

One positive note in the Downs & St. Germain report for March was the fact that the number of international tourists in the county continued to grow in March, “particularly visitors from the United Kingdom [UK],” it said. The tally of UK tourists was up 107%, compared to the figure for March 2022, the report added.

Additionally, the Downs & St. Germain staff talks with managers of Sarasota County accommodations each month to try to get a sense of their outlook for the coming months. In March, the report noted, the property managers’ views “were neutral on the next three months,” with about a third of the general managers expecting increases in rooms sold, another third anticipating the same amount of demand, and the third group expecting less demand.