‘Bed tax’ revenue in October down from amount collected in October 2022

Higher figures for October 2022 attributed to workers in the county assisting with Hurricane Ian recovery

This is the first ‘Comparison’ report on Sarasota County Tourist Development Tax revenue for the 2024 fiscal year. Image courtesy Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates

Unlike the situation in 2022, the first set of reports for Sarasota County’s Tourist Development Tax — or, “bed tax” — revenue this fiscal year marks a month-over-month decline.

The documents for October released by Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates and her staff note that the revenue totaled $2,421,548.28. That is down $1,114,588.85 — nearly 32% — compared to the $3,536,137.13 collected in October 2022. The 2023 fiscal year started with $485,351.86 more revenue in October 2022 than the Tax Collector’s Office received in October 2021, the reports showed at that time.

However, a Tallahassee research firm that provides monthly reports to the county’s tourism office, Visit Sarasota County, has pointed out that workers who came to the county to assist with the recovery from Hurricane Ian — which struck Southwest Florida in late September 2022 — stayed longer than typical visitors, even though they spent less per day. Their presence is “partially responsible for year over year changes,” the Downs & St. Germain report said, referring to lower tourism-related figures for October 2022.

Each month of the 2023 fiscal year, which ended on Sept. 30, ended up with higher collections than the same month of the 2022 fiscal year, the Tax Collector’s Office data showed.

The October 2022 total was up by approximately 63%, compared to the October 2021 amount.

The county also set another record for the bed tax revenue in the 2023 fiscal year: $49,988,224.11, as shown in the latest reports. That figure is up just slightly from the amount cited in the final report for the last fiscal year: $49,969,141.45.

As Ford-Coates and her staff have explained, the figures can change from month to month as a result of audits and other enforcement actions.

The 6% bed tax is charged on accommodations rented for six months or less time. The funds are used for a variety of initiatives related to tourism, including beach management, the upkeep of the two Major League Baseball Spring Training stadiums in the county, and the promotion of the county to keep visitors coming.

Another detail in the new reports is that the bed tax revenue collected by Airbnb hosts in October added up to $479,904.65. That was down by close to 34%, compared to the $721,715.27 that Airbnb turned over to the county at the end of October 2022, as shown in that report from the Tax Collector’s Office.

Moreover, the revenue collected by all of the online rental platforms that that are contractually obligated to turn over to Ford-Coates and her staff represented only 24.97% of the total this October. That compares to a figure of 36.78% in October 2022.

This chart shows the amount of ‘bed tax’ collected in each municipality and in other locations, such as Siesta Key. mage courtesy Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates

As for the figurative, annual battle between Siesta Key and the City of Sarasota over which location can collect the most Tourist Development Tax revenue: The city has started out in the lead this fiscal year, with 27.39% of the total; the figure for Siesta is 22.78%.

In October 2022, accommodations in the city were the source of 21% of the amount collected, with Siesta accounting for 20.06%.

Along with Airbnb, the county has contracts with HomeAway and TripAdvisor, plus all of their subsidiaries.

Among other details in the new reports from the Tax Collector’s Office, the revenue for September of this year has climbed slightly since the previous data was published. The initial total provided by the Tax Collector’s Office was $1,944,975.46. The new reports show that the figure is $1,965,134.36, which marks an uptick of a little more than 10%.

For another example, the June total has declined to $3,740,644.65 from the figure reported in the previous data: $3,745,707.55. The difference is only about 0.2%, though.

As for other information in the October Downs & St. German report for Visit Sarasota County: The number of visitors to Sarasota County was down 9.1% from October 2022. The figure for that month last year was 134,300; this October, it was 122,100.

However, visitors this October had higher direct expenditures: $132,534,600, which was up 5.4%, compared to the $125,720,900 in October 2022.

On the downward side again, the occupancy rate this October was only 59.4%, a drop of 26.3%, compared to the October 2022 number, which was 80.6%.

The number of room nights sold this October also fell. It was 249,800, a 20% decline, compared to the 312,300 figure for October 2022.

However, the average room rate this October was $227.15, which was up 5.5%, compared to the $215.39 average in October 2022.

Another point of interest in the Downs & St. Germain report was the fact that international tourism has continued to rebound, with the largest increase seen in the number of visitors from countries outside Canada and Europe.

On the negative side, when Downs & St. Germain staff conducted their monthly survey of general managers of accommodations in regard to their forecasts for tourism for the next three months, those general managers were less optimistic, “with nearly 67% of [them] reporting decreased demand,” the Downs & St. Germain summary for October pointed out.