County ‘bed tax’ revenue continues a boom

Collections for October and November 2017 are up by more than $317,000, compared to the figure for the same months in 2016

Visitors of a variety of ages make themselves home on Siesta Public Beach on a January morning. Rachel Hackney photo

Even after two consecutive record-setting years, the county’s Tourist Development Tax (TDT) collections remain on a roll thus far this fiscal year, based on the latest report from the Sarasota County Tax Collector’s Office.

November 2017 had an even higher increase year-over-year for the total of county “bed tax” revenue brought in than October 2017, which was the first month of the 2018 fiscal year, data show. For November, collections totaled $1,227,198.07, compared to $1,044,199.44 in November 2016, according to the reports provided to the Tax Collector’s Office from entities that collect the tax.

As those figures can change — based on audits and revised data, Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates has explained — the latest figure for October 2017 is also up a bit more year-over-year. The difference between collections for October 2016 and October 2017 showed an additional increase of $15,118.97 in the report. Overall, October 2017 revenue was $1,142,084.46, compared to $1,008,057.70 in October 2016.

With just two months of collections, the TDT revenue reported in the 2018 fiscal year represents a climb of $317,025.39 compared to the figure for the same two months in the 2017 fiscal year, according to the Tax Collector’s Office.

The latest data from the Sarasota County Tax Collector’s Office show continued growth in tourism revenue. Image courtesy Tax Collector’s Office

The county set a record in FY16, with collections totaling $20,116,242.19, and then the county broke that mark when the 2017 revenue added up to $21,326,052.31, the data show.

Research undertaken for Visit Sarasota County in November 2017 underscored the positive trends, based on the latest report from the county’s tourism office.

The number of visitors in November 2017 was up 2.9% year-over-year, room nights showed an increase of 5.7% from November 2016 to November 2017, and spending by visitors staying in paid accommodations was up 3.4%, the research shows.

For the first two months of FY18, the Visit Sarasota County report says, 156,290 visitors have come to the county and stayed in paid accommodations, reflecting a 3% increase in comparison to the same period of FY17. Tourists’ economic impact on the county totaled $227,687,700, up 3.9% from the overall figure for October and November in 2016.

The two strongest domestic markets for travelers to Sarasota County have been New York City and Tampa Bay, the report notes, while Toronto leads the list of international markets.

Moreover, the Visit Sarasota County report says, 44% of the property owners and general managers of accommodations surveyed in November 2017 that they believe the next three months of bookings “are going to be stronger than last year.”

Downs & St. Germain Research of Tallahassee undertook the research for Visit Sarasota County.

Visit Sarasota County has provided this report on tourism for the community. Image courtesy Visit Sarasota County

As for the leading location in the county in terms of TDT collections: The City of Sarasota reported a total of $851,060.85 for October and November 2017, giving it 35.92% of the overall revenue. Siesta Key was in second place with $581,944.06, or 24.56%, according to the Tax Collector’s Office.

Finally, the Tax Collector’s Office report through November 2017 points out that the county Airbnb hosts had brought in $151,678.70 thus far this fiscal year. After the County Commission approved an agreement with Airbnb last spring, collections from hosts associated with the internet-based accommodations service began on May 1, 2017.

Sarasota was one of six counties with which Airbnb inked agreements last year, the accommodations service reported.

In a year-end news release, Airbnb said its Florida hosts earned $450 million for 2017 and welcomed 2.7 million guests. The latter figure represented a 75% hike in year-over-year growth, the release pointed out. “There are now nearly 40,000 Floridians who share their homes or vacation rentals through Airbnb, with each host typically earning about $6,700 annually,” the release said.

Sarasota ranked 10th among all Florida counties for the number of Airbnb visitors reported, with 67,100, according to the company data. Hosts’ total income was $13.3 million, the news release noted.

Miami-Dade topped all counties, with 667,200 guests and $134.6 million in hosts’ income, the release said. Osceola was in second place, with 358,400 guests and $39.6 million.