‘Bed tax’ revenue sets a new January record

Amount exceeds $5 million for first time

Sarasota County’s Tourist Development Tax — or, “bed tax” — revenue set a new record in January, as shown in the latest reports released by county Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates and her staff.

The total was $5,559,231.49. That is up $1,122,285.53 — about 25% — compared to the figure for January 2022, which was $4,436,945.96.

Additionally, January marks the third month so far this fiscal year — which began on Oct. 1, 2022 — with month-over-month revenue totals higher by more than $1 million. Only the amount collected for December 2022 failed to produce that $1-milliion-plus uptick, the reports show.

Altogether, for the first four months of the 2023 fiscal year, the Tourist Development Tax (TDT) funds turned over to Ford-Coates and her staff add up to $16,164,354.51. That figure is higher by $4,432,002.28 than the amount collected in the first four months of the 2022 fiscal year.

In the 2022 fiscal year, the county set a new record for the TDT revenue. That figure is $40,289,648.98. Yet, the collections that Ford-Coates and her staff have taken in over the first four months of this fiscal year represent a jump of approximately 41%, compared to the total for the first four months of the 2022 fiscal year, which was $11,447,904.78, as the Tax Collector’s Office staff reported at that time.

The 6% Tourist Development Tax is charged on rentals of accommodations for six months or less time. The funds are used for a variety of tourism-related purposes — from beach maintenance and renourishment to upkeep of the two Major League Baseball Spring Training stadiums in the county — Ed Smith in Sarasota and CoolToday Park in Wellen Park, near North Port and Venice.

The new reports also show the continuing climb in TDT revenue generated by online vacation rental companies. The total amount of money that Airbnb has turned over to the county through January is $2,503,766.26, the new reports show. That is up nearly 67%, compared to the figure collected through January 2022, which was $1,501,643.50.

As Ford-Coates and her staff have explained, the agreement inked between the county and Airbnb allows the Tax Collector’s Office to report the amount of revenue each month, but Airbnb declines to identify its hosts.

However, the agreements between TripAdvisor and HomeAway, including all of their subsidiaries — Vrbo.com among them — does not permit the Tax Collector’s Office to report on specific amounts generated by each of those companies. Thus, the monthly report that Ford-Coates’ staff releases showing how much of the TDT revenue came from rentals through those companies identifies the sources only as “Online Platforms.” And that revenue has continued to grow, as well, over the past year.

The portion of the TDT funds that the online platforms collected through January represented 23.13% of the total, the new “Location” report says. Through January 2022, the number was 21.06%.

Over the years, entities in the City of Sarasota and Siesta Key that collect the bed tax revenue have waged a figurative battle to see which will prevail by the end of each fiscal year. The January report shows the city remaining in the lead, with 26.6% of the total. Siesta Key is in third place, with 21.07%.

Among other data of note in the latest reports, the collections figures for the first three months of this fiscal year also have risen.

Ford-Coates and her staff have pointed out that audits and other enforcement action can lead to changes in the numbers from month to month.

For example, the December 2022 TDT collections shown in the new reports were higher by $794,814.78 than the December 2021 figure. The previous report put the uptick at $747,803.61.

Additionally, the amount of revenue turned over to the Tax Collector’s Office for November 2022, as noted in the new report, was up $1,065,769.43, compared to the November 2021 total. The previous report put that month-over-month increase at $1,003,459.55. Thus, the uptick for November 2022 in the new report is about 6% higher.

Along with the data that Ford-Coates and her staff release each month, Visit Sarasota County, the county’s tourism office, provides a report to local government officials based on research undertaken by a Tallahassee firm, Downs & St. Germain.

The Visit Sarasota County update for January is as follows:

  • The number of January visitors staying in paid lodging dropped slightly, by 1.5%, to 92,700, compared to the figure in January 2022.
  • Visitors’ direct expenditures in January grew by 2.4% month-over-month, to $159,273,600.
  • January lodging occupancy was flat, compared to the figure for January 2022, showing an increase of only 0.5%, to the 76.2% mark.
  • The average daily rate for lodging in January grew by 13.7%, to $258.84, compared to the average for January 2022.
  • The number of lodging room nights sold grew by 13.5% ,to 293,300, compared to the figure for January 2022.