‘Bed tax’ revenue in April breaks record

Number of visitors actually was lower than April 2022 figure, but tax rate went up 1% on Oct. 1

Sarasota County’s Tourist Development Tax — or, “bed tax” — continued on pace in April to set a new fiscal year record, as indicated by the latest reports that Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates and her staff have released.

For the first time in April, the revenue exceeded $5 million, coming in at $5,000,502.64, the reports show. The amount is up $618,813.49 — or about 14% — compared to the total of $4,381,689.15 that was turned over to Ford-Coates and her staff in April 2022.

The 6% tax is collected on rentals of accommodations for six months or less time. In April 2022, the County Commission approved the adjustment that went into effect with the start of the 2023 fiscal year.

The tax had been 5% since May 1, 2011.

Additionally, through April — with five months left before the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30 — the money generated by the tax was $34,567,275.85, the new reports note. The total amount of Tourist Development Tax (TDT) revenue that the Tax Collector’s Office tallied in the 2022 fiscal year was $40,308,091.82. Thus, the revenue taken in so far this fiscal year represents almost 86% of that total.

Through the same seven months of the 2022 fiscal year, the revenue added up to $26,837,927.47, Ford-Coates and her staff reported at that time. The total through April of this fiscal year is approximately 29% higher.

Among other details in the new reports, the amount of TDT revenue that Airbnb has turned over to the Tax Collector’s Office from its hosts this fiscal year has added up to $4,380,334.74, which is about 43% above the figure that Airbnb had delivered to the Tax Collector’s Office through April 2022: $3,052,842.04.

Altogether, through April of this fiscal year, the online rental platforms — including Vrbo.com and TripAdvisor and their subsidiaries — have accounted for 20.24% of the TDT revenue, a chart shows. Through April 2022, that figure was 18.79%.

Traditionally, the City of Sarasota and Siesta Key “battle” over which of them will end up contributing the largest amount of the bed tax money to the county in a given year. Siesta generally has won that figurative competition in the past, but the City of Sarasota prevailed last year. The April data show that the city still is in the lead this fiscal year, with 26.47% of the revenue. Siesta’s share through April is 24.8%.

Yet other notes of interest in the latest reports are increases in the totals for previous months. For example, the new data show that the revenue for March was higher by $1,047,759.04 than the total for March 2022. The initial report on the March bed tax funds said the amount was up by $891,145.23, compared to the total for March 2022.

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

The latest reports also show an uptick in the February revenue for this fiscal year. The previous reports put that month-over-month hike at $1,135,772.04; the new ones show that the difference has climbed to $1,179,993.49, which is about 4% higher than the earlier figure.

Along with the monthly updates from the Tax Collector’s Office, Visit Sarasota County, the county’s tourism office, offers data provided on its behalf by a Tallahassee consulting firm, Downs & St. Germain.

That April report showed that the number of visitors to the county was down 8.2%, from 149,000 in April 2022 to 136,800 in April of this year. Additionally, the tourists’ direct spending declined 1.9%, month-over-month — from $180,889,300 in April 2022 to $177,372,100 in April of this year.

The following data also were included in that report:

  • Lodging occupancy declined 5.9%, from 78.5% to 73.9%.
  • The average room rate was down just a little — 0.1% — to $293.33.
  • The number of room nights sold dropped 5.2% — from 350,800 in April 2022 to 332,400 this April.

Downs & St. Germain staff also talk with managers of accommodations each month, to get an assessment of their expectations for the coming months. That part of the April report says that the managers “were neutral on the next three months, with about half of [general managers] reporting similar demand, nearly a third reporting increased demand, and 17% reporting an increase in demand.”

One very positive note in that report is that the number of international visitors to Sarasota County has continued to grow in the aftermath of the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Downs & St. Germain especially noted the rebound in visitors from the United Kingdom, which they put at 93.2%.