Tourist Development Tax collections for December and January lagging behind those for the same months in previous fiscal year

Number of visitors from the United Kingdom and ‘German-speaking central Europe continues to decline,’ Visit Sarasota County president says, but Canadian tourism rebounding a bit

Visitors abound in Siesta Village on a Saturday in March. Rachel Hackney photo

Tourist Development Tax collections (TDT) were down in December 2016 and January, with the latter month showing a drop of more than $220,000 compared to the same month in 2016, the Sarasota County Tax Collector’s Office has reported.

Through Jan. 31, the total of TDT revenue for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, 2016 was $177,471.94 less than the figure for the same period of the previous fiscal year, the latest data show.

October 2016 saw an increase of only $29,155 in TDT revenue year-over-year, while the figure for November 2016 was up $39,903.92 compared to the number for November 2015, the Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates’ staff has reported.

Overall, the TDT collections for the first four months of the current fiscal year added up to $5,929,098.82, the data show.

Sarasota County broke a record for its “bed tax” revenue in the 2016 fiscal year, ending up with $20,074,519.82.

These figures are the latest provided by the Tax Collector’s Office. Image courtesy Sarasota County Tax Collector’s Office

The January figure may climb, because entities that collect the money are required to provide their information to the Tax Collector’s office by a specific time each month, Tax Collector Office staff has explained to The Sarasota News Leader. Thus, updated figures often appear in later reports.

Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota County, also has pointed that out to the News Leader, referencing past situations.

For example, when the TDT figure for December 2016 was released last month, it showed a drop of $61,848.21, compared to the revenue for December 2015. However, the latest figure — provided this week by the Tax Collector’s Office — shows a decline of $26,093.01.

Still, in a Feb. 27 email Haley sent to City and County of Sarasota leaders, she noted that the number of visitors from the United Kingdom and “and German-speaking central Europe continues to decline.”

In spite of that, she reported, the overall figure for visitors in January grew by 2.3% to 78,900, compared to last year, “and their direct expenditures grew by 3.7% to $99,355,600.”

“One other bright spot,” Haley wrote, “was Canadian visitation which has been declining the past few months …” She added that it “actually grew by 2.5% in January.”

Businesses in the city of Sarasota are leading the way right now in terms of total collections. Image courtesy Sarasota County Tax Collector’s Office

Additionally, she noted, the number of tourists coming to Sarasota County from other parts of Florida and from the Southeast and the Northeast continued to be a strong point, based on research conducted for Visit Sarasota County.

Among other statistics, Haley reported that hotel occupancy “grew by 1.9% [in January] to 76.7% and the average room rate grew by 3.8% to $178.57.”

The latest Tax Collector’s Office report also shows the city of Sarasota was the top location in the county based on the total amount of the revenue its businesses brought in through January. The figure was $1,881,520.43, or 31.73%. Siesta Key was in second place, with $1,633,093.35, or 27.54%.

Sarasota County was in third place, with 18.02% of the total collections, the report says: $1,068,276.55.