‘Bed tax’ revenue sets yet another record for March, exceeding $5 million for one month for first time in county history

For first half of fiscal year, revenue up $7.6 million, compared to same period of 2021 fiscal year

This is a photo of Caspersen Beach that Visit Sarasota County featured on its Facebook page on March 26 with the comments, ‘Wonder. Wander. Repeat. 🌴🏖️☀️ #sarasotabeachvibes 📍 Caspersen Beach.’ The tourism office promotes a wide variety of county destinations, not just Siesta and Lido key beaches. Image courtesy Visit Sarasota County via Facebook

Yet another record has fallen this year in regard to Sarasota County’s Tourist Development Tax — or, “bed tax” — collections, the latest reports from Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates and her staff show.

In March, for the first time, the revenue turned over by hosts of accommodations exceeded $5 million. In fact, the total was close to $6 million: $5,875,545.31.

Sherri Smith, chief deputy tax collector for Sarasota County, confirmed for The Sarasota News Leader that the total is a new monthly record for the collections.

In the 2019 fiscal year, before the COVID-19 pandemic began, the March collections added up to $4,253,985.58, the Tax Collector’s Office reported at that time. Then, in March 2021, the total was $4,577,915.56.

Traditionally, as Ford-Coates and her staff have pointed out, March is the peak month for the Tourist Development Tax (TDT) collections, as it typically is the busiest month for spring break visitors in Sarasota County.

The new March total is approximately 28% higher than the March 2021 total.

That new record follows those already set for the months of January and February.

Moreover, the TDT revenue through the first half of this fiscal year is up $7,631,048.13, compared to the amount reported for the same period of the 2021 fiscal year, Ford-Coates and her staff note in the latest reports.

When the March 2021 data were released, the collections added up to $14,532,949.04. Audits and other enforcement actions did result in higher revenue totals by the end of the 2021 fiscal year. Nonetheless, the revenue for the first six months of the 2022 fiscal year — which began on Oct. 1, 2021 — is almost 54% higher than the figure for the first half of the 2021 fiscal year.

Among other data in the latest reports, the revenue that Airbnb has turned over to the Tax Collector’s Office thus far this fiscal year adds up to $2,553,117.58. That is about 42% higher than the figure of $1,794,788.54 reported for the same period of the 2021 fiscal year, according to Tax Collector Office data.

Altogether, the online rental platforms — including those provided by HomeAway and TripAdvisor, and their subsidiaries — are credited with bringing in 18.89% of the TDT revenue from Oct. 1, 2021 through March of this year, Ford-Coates’ staff notes.

This is the latest Tourist Development Tax comparison report. Image courtesy Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates

The City of Sarasota and Siesta Key wage a figurative battle each fiscal year to see which will end up turning over the largest amount of TDT money to the county. Through March, the city is ahead, with 27.34% of the total, the new reports show. Siesta accounts for 24.76% of the TDT revenue.

Siesta Key ends up on top most fiscal years.

Among other facets of the March reports, all of the earlier monthly totals have been revised upward. Again, as Ford-Coates and her staff note on the reports, “All figures are subject to change following audit and enforcement actions.”

For example, the latest total for February is higher than the February 2021 total by $1,666,017.47, as shown in the new data. The previous report put the month-over-month increase at $1,597,085.63. Thus, the new figure is approximately 4.3% higher.

For another example, the previous total reported for December 2021 was up $1,205,224.71, compared to the amount for December 2020. The new data show that month-over-month uptick is more than $24,000 higher, at $1,230,022.81.

This is the latest Tourist Development Tax location report. Image courtesy Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates

Visit Sarasota County, the county’s tourism office, also provides statistics regarding tourism in March, as determined by the consulting group with which it contracts, Downs & St. Germain Research in Tallahassee.

The number of visitors who stayed in paid accommodations in the county in March was 171,600, the firm said, which was up 1.1% from the March 2021 total.

The March visitors’ direct spending added up to $247,379,200, a 21.6% hike, compared to the figure for March 2021, the firm added.

Occupancy of accommodations was up 1.4%, Downs & St. Germain noted — from 88% in March 2021 to 89.2% in 2022.

However, the firm reported that the average daily lodging rate was 21.7% higher — $338.27, compared to $277.95 in 2021.

In February, the Downs & St. Germain report showed that the average daily lodging rate in the county had set a new record for a month: $294.82. Therefore, the March figure set another record.

Finally, the number of room nights sold was 409,600, which was 6.6% higher than the March 2021 figure of 383,900.

Downs & St. Germain also pointed out in its summary for Visit Sarasota County, “As U.S. borders opened in November [2021], the percentage of visitors who traveled from international areas continues to increase significantly.”

Moreover, the firm noted that visitors’ points of origin “continue [a] return to normal as fewer visitors are traveling from within the state” and more are coming from the Midwest and Northeast, as well as from international locations.”