‘Bed tax’ revenue up almost 60% in November 2021, compared to same month in 2020

Total more than $800,000 higher than amount collected in November 2019, before pandemic began in Florida

‘Angel of Death’ by Chris Guinto was among the artwork created for the 2021 Crystal Classic International Sand Sculpting Festival, which drew tens of thousands of people to Siesta Public Beach in November 2021. Image courtesy of the Siesta Key Crystal Classic

Not only does Sarasota County’s Tourist Development Tax — or “bed tax” — revenue for November 2021 well exceed the amount for November 2020, but it also is almost 60% higher than the total collected in November 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

That is the chief takeaway, so to speak, from the latest reports issued by Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates and her staff.

For November 2021, the amount of “bed tax” revenue turned over to the Tax Collector’s Office from all the entities that rent out accommodations was $2,164,923.77. That figure is up $905,694.20, compared to the total for November 2020, when the pandemic was well underway, but before vaccines became available. It is $811,663.30 more than the total for November 2019, Ford-Coates’ staff notes in the new reports.

Altogether, for October and November 2021, the “bed tax” collections were $1,679,884.59 higher than the figure for the same two months of 2020.

Last fiscal year, the Tourist Development Tax (TDT) revenue set a new county record, adding up to $31,032,649.21. Because of that, the Sarasota County Commission has agreed to request certification from the Florida Department of Revenue for the county to be designated a “high tourism county.” That would enable the county to charge a sixth penny of the TDT tax.

The tax is charged on all accommodations rented for six months or less time.

TDT revenue for the first two months of the 2022 fiscal year added up to $4,187,627.51, the latest reports from the Tax Collector’s Office show. For the first two months of the 2021 fiscal year, the revenue was about two-thirds of that — $2,507,742.92.

Although the first COVID-19 case in Florida was identified in Sarasota County on March 1, 2020, the plethora of outdoor activities available in Sarasota County drew many tourists as the year went on, Virginia Haley, president of the county’s tourism office, Visit Sarasota County, pointed out to local leaders. The primary reason, Haley indicated, was the fact that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that transmission of the coronavirus was less likely in outdoor settings.

Among other data in the latest reports from Ford-Coates and her staff, the TDT collections turned over by Airbnb hosts for the first two months of this fiscal year totaled $668,896.96. For October and November 2020, the Airbnb total was $397,892.81. Thus, for the first two months of the 2022 fiscal year, the figure is 68% higher than the total for the first two months of the 2021 fiscal year.

Ford-Coates and her staff note that the revenue from all the online rental platforms that turn over their hosts’ funds to the Tax Collector’s Office represents 22.1% of the amount reported thus far in the 2022 fiscal year.

Along with Airbnb, Vrbo.com and TripAdvisor, and their subsidiaries, have reporting contracts with Sarasota County. However, none of the companies identifies their hosts, in accord with those agreements.

This is the Tourist Development Tax comparison report for October and November 2021, with data from the previous two fiscal years of collections. Image courtesy Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates

The online platform percentage for October and November is just shy of Siesta Key’s 22.16% figure, while entities in the city of Sarasota that collect the bed tax have accounted for 30.97% of the revenue so far this fiscal year.

A figurative battle has taken place through the years as the city of Sarasota and Siesta Key have vied for the top spot among county locations in terms of TDT revenue collections. Siesta Key has been the “winner” most years, Ford-Coates and her staff have noted.

One other fact evident in the latest reports is that the October 2021 TDT revenue was revised upward from $726,922.09 in the initial reports to $774,190.39 in the latest documents.

Ford-Coates and her staff point out that audits and other enforcement actions can produce revised figures from month to month.

This is the Tourist Development Tax location report for October and November. Image courtesy Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates

Among other data for November 2021, Haley of Visit Sarasota County has reported double-digit increases, compared to totals for November 2020, in the figures that a Tallahassee firm tracks for Sarasota County.

November 2021 saw 101,100 visitors to the county, a 41.6% increase compared to the number for November 2020, Haley wrote in an email to local government leaders.

Direct visitor spending in November 2021 was $107,292,500, which represented a 57.45% increase, compared to the November 2020 number, Haley added.

Lodging occupancy for November 2021 was 65.1%, a 39.1% jump, compared to the figure for November 2020, Haley continued.

The average daily lodging rate for November 2021 was $210.80, she pointed out, which was 31.1% higher than the average for November 2020.

Finally, she wrote, In November 2021, 214,830 room nights were sold, a 45.7% hike compared to the total for November 2020.