‘Bed tax’ sets another record in April, as revenue continues to climb year-over-year

Visitors’ direct spending in April up close to 20%, compared to same month in 2021

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Patti Smith performs at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens on April 22. Through June 26, the Gardens will feature its show Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith: Flowers, Poetry, and Light, which ‘pairs the iconic flower photography of Mapplethorpe with the nature-inspired lyrics and poetry of Smith, set in dialogue with original horticultural installations created by the Selby Gardens staff,’ the Gardens explains. Image courtesy Selby Gardens

Sarasota County’s Tourist Development Tax — or, “bed tax” — revenue continued its upward climb in April, setting yet another monthly record for the funds collected.

In fact the $4,357,904.49 that hosts of accommodations and hotels and motels turned over to the Sarasota County Tax Collector’s Office for April was not far shy of what was then a record amount for March, in 2021, the latest reports show: $4,577,915.56.

This March set a record of its own: That marked the first month that Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates’ staff had received more than $5 million in Tourist Development Tax (TDT) funds.

The money the Tax Collector’s Office received this April exceeded the April 2021 total by $846,651.72, the latest data show. The April figure is up about 24%, compared to the total for April 2021.

Thus far, through the first seven months of the 2022 fiscal year — which began on Oct. 1, 2021 — the bed tax revenue is $8,603,094.86 higher than the total for the same period of the 2021 fiscal year.

Through April, the county had collected $26,837,927.47, Ford-Coates’s staff reported. For the first seven months of the 2021 fiscal year, through April 2021, the total turned over to the Tax Collector’s Office was $18,131,243.11. However, except for October 2020, the bed tax revenue for that period was down, compared to the figures for the same months in the 2020 fiscal year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yet, going back to the 2019 fiscal year — before the pandemic began — the TDT report released with data through April showed a total of $16,111,231.01. Thus, the amount collected through April of this year represents an increase of more than two-thirds, in comparison to the FY 2019 total.

These are the latest comparison figures for the Tourist Development Tax. Image courtesy Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates

Altogether, the Tax Collector’s Office received $31,055,778.30 in bed tax revenue in the 2021 fiscal year. That not only was a new record, but it also was a factor in the county’s winning state approval this year to implement a sixth penny of the Tourist Development Tax. That tax is imposed on accommodations rented for six months or less time.

With five months remaining in the 2022 fiscal year, the total bed tax revenue is approximately $4.2 million less than the record amount collected in the 2021 fiscal year.

The collections that the online accommodations company Airbnb has delivered to Ford-Coates’ staff on behalf of its hosts added up to $3,052,842.04 through April, the latest reports also show. The Airbnb total through April in the 2021 fiscal year was $2,322,695.67, Ford-Coates’ staff noted at that time. Thus, the figure for April of this year is approximately 31.4% higher.

Altogether, through April of this fiscal year, the online platforms with which the county has TDT agreements have collected 18.79% of the bed tax revenue, Ford-Coates’ staff has reported. The other platforms are TripAdvisor and HomeAway.com, including all of their subsidiaries.

The City of Sarasota and Siesta Key wage a figurative battle each fiscal year to see which can “win” the honor of having produced the largest amount of the bed tax. Through April, the city is ahead, with 27.46% of the funds. Siesta Key has contributed 25.53% of the money.

This is the latest report showing collections of the ‘bed tax’ revenue by location. Image courtesy Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates

Among other details of the latest data, the revenue for every month of this fiscal year except October 2021 has increased. Ford-Coates and her staff point out that that is a function of audits and other enforcement actions.

Among the largest increases is the new figure for March. When Ford-Coates’ staff released the reports for the fiscal year through that month, the documents showed that the revenue collected in March of this year was up by $1,297,629.75, compared to the total for March 2021. That month-over-month increase has climbed approximately 2%, to $1,416,890.60.

For another example, the month-over-month uptick for February in the prior report was $1,666,017.47. The new data put that increase at $1,670,872.48.

Along with the reports from Ford-Coates’ office, Visit Sarasota County, the county’s tourism office, issues its own set of figures each month, based on research that a Tallahassee firm — Downs & St. Germain — produces on its behalf.

The number of visitors this April, that report said, was 149,000, which was 1.8% higher than the April 2021 total of 146,400.

Those tourists’ direct expenditures climbed 19.5% from April 2021, the report says, to $180,889,300.

However, lodging occupancy declined 3%, from 80.9% in April 2021 to 78.5% this April. Downs & St. Germain attributed that primarily to the increase in the number of units available.

Conversely, the average room rate jumped 18.7%, from $247.44 in April 2021 to $293.77 this April. Downs & St. Germain characterized that as a “healthy” increase.

The number of room nights sold this April was up 3.6%, to 350,800, the report also notes.

Finally, Downs & St. Germain said that owners and general managers of accommodations were “less optimistic” in April with their forecasts for the next three months. Research showed that 51% of the general managers and owners said demand for rooms would be greater than it was at the same time last year for that period, while 17% of them expected demand to decline.

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