Total collections down about 16.5% from December 2019
Out of the first three months of the 2021 fiscal year — which began on Oct. 1, 2020 — December saw the biggest drop in county Tourist Development Tax — or, “bed tax” — collections, Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates and her staff have reported.
In December 2020, the Tourist Development Tax (TDT) revenue totaled $1,741,053.57, down $343,644.77 compared to the December 2019 figure, the Tax Collector’s Office’s data show.
That is a month-over-month drop of approximately 16.5%.
Altogether, the county received $4,210,645.58 in bed tax revenue for the first three months of the fiscal year, the Tax Collector’s Office report notes. That is down $419,635.84, compared to the figure for the same period of the 2020 fiscal year.
From October through December 2019, the TDT revenue added up to $4,534,139.51.
This year, county staff projected the total “bed tax” collections for the fiscal year would be approximately $19 million, based on anticipated negative economic impacts as the novel coronavirus pandemic continues.
The county had set records with its TDT collections from 2009 through 2019, as shown in a chart presented on Feb. 11 to members of the county’s Tourist Development Council. (See the related article in this issue.)
The 5% “bed tax” is levied on all rentals of accommodations for six months or less time. The funds are used for a wide variety of purposes related to tourism, as provided for in state law. Among those uses are upkeep of public facilities at the beaches, maintenance of the Baltimore Orioles’ and Atlanta Braves’ Spring Training stadiums in the county, and promotion of the county to visitors through the work of Visit Sarasota County (VSC).
One positive detail in the latest information from the Tax Collector’s Office is the fact that collections in November 2020 suffered less of a month-over-month fall than initially reported. The original report showed a drop of $173,942.43. The new data puts the decrease at $119,822.19.
On the other hand, the previous report showed October 2020 collections were higher than those in October 2019 by $46,078.62. The latest report revises that to a month-over-month uptick of $43,831.12.
Ford-Coates and her staff have explained that audits and other enforcement actions can lead to revisions in the figures from month to month as each fiscal year progresses.
Among other data in the latest reports, from Oct. 1, 2020 through Dec. 31, 2020, the Airbnb TDT total was $592,363.37. That is an increase of about 23% from the $481,488.75 figure for the first three months of the 2020 fiscal year, the Tax Collector’s latest report shows.
Under the guidelines of a county agreement, Airbnb turns over its hosts’ monthly collections to the Tax Collector’s Office.
The county also has agreements in place with other online accommodations platforms and all their subsidiaries, Chief Deputy Tax Collector Sherri Smith told members of the county’s Tourist Development Council on Feb. 11. However, unlike Airbnb, under those arrangements, platforms such as HomeAway and TripAdvisor have not given the Tax Collector’s Office permission to report their individual totals, Smith pointed out.
Nonetheless, from Oct. 1, 2020 through Dec. 31, 2020, all the online platforms accounted for 22.82% of the county’s TDT revenue. The total was $960,971.71, the Tax Collector’s Office noted.
In comparison, entities in the city of Sarasota that collect the tax were responsible for 27.02% of the revenue through December 2020. Siesta Key hosts collected 24.38% of the money.
In related data, Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota County, the county’s tourism office, provided statistics for December 2020 based on research undertaken for her staff.
Haley noted that December 2020 saw 74,700 visitors in paid lodging, which was a 23.3% drop from the total for December 2019.
Visitor spending in December 2020 was $72,962,900, a decline of 15.9%, compared to the figure for December 2019.
Lodging occupancy was 49.5%, a 23.7% drop, compared to the total for December 2019.
The average daily lodging rate in December 2020 was $165.16, a decline of 7.6%, Haley wrote in her report to community leaders.
Finally, she noted, the number of lodging room nights sold in December 2020 was 156,500, down 10.4% compared to the total for December 2019.