County ‘bed tax’ revenue up more than 15% for first quarter of 2018 fiscal year, latest figures show

Visitors’ direct spending up by 4.1% in December 2017

Outdoor tables have been busy at restaurants on Main Street in Sarasota, thanks to the beautiful weather, City of Sarasota staff has noted. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

December 2017 was another good month for Sarasota County Tourist Development Tax (TDT) collections, the Sarasota County Tax Collector’s Office has reported. In fact, the month-over-month increase for December continues an upward trend thus far since the current fiscal year began on Oct. 1, 2017.

In December, total “bed tax” revenue was $1,769,799.29, based on the latest Tax Collector’s Office data. That marks a year-over-year uptick of $205,200.39, the report notes.

Thus far, entities that collect the bed tax have reported income of $4,163,449.68 this fiscal year, which reflects an increase of $546,593.64 compared to the same three months of the 2017 fiscal year, the Tax Collector’s Office records show.

From October through December 2016, the total TDT revenue was $3,616,856.04, the Tax Collector’s Office report says. Thus, collections already this fiscal year are outpacing those of FY17 by about 15%.

Last year, the county set another record with bed tax revenue: $21,328,878.53.

The latest report also points out that, since the county’s agreement with Airbnb went into effect on May 1, 2017, collections through December 2017 totaled $224,964.83. That 2017 agreement requires all Sarasota County hosts working through the internet-based accommodations service to provide payments to the Tax Collector’s Office, as well.

Numbers in the December 2017 report may change; Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates has explained to the county’s Tourist Development Council (TDC) members that her staff routinely audits records, and the businesses that provide the data occasionally turn in supplemental information.

For example, in its previous report, the Tax Collector’s Office noted that the increase year-over-year for November was $182,998.63. However, the latest figures show that has climbed to $202,494.52.

A chart compares Tourist Development Tax collections for the first three months of the 2018 and 2017 fiscal years. Image courtesy Sarasota County Tax Collector’s Office

Tourist Development Tax revenue is allocated to a variety of initiatives in the county — from beach maintenance and renourishment to arts and cultural programming to maintenance of Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota to assisting with the operations of Nathan Benderson Park, which hosted the 2017 World Rowing Championships. Sarasota County’s TDT levy is 5%.

TDT revenue also will be used to pay back the bonds issued for the Atlanta Braves’ new Spring Training complex in the West Villages outside North Port.

Research undertaken for Visit Sarasota County (VSC) in December 2017 underscored the Tax Collector’s Office figures for that month. Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota County, reported that the number of visitors to the county grew by 3.1% in December 2017, compared to the figure for December 2016. The December 2017 total was 108,100, she pointed out in a Feb. 1 email. Moreover, she continued, their direct spending was up by 4.1%, to $232,906,000.

Additionally, Haley noted, “Hotel occupancy grew by 2.1% [in] December [2017] compared to last [December] and stands at 69.6%. The average room rate for the same period grew by 3.6% to $180.78, giving us RevPAR growth of 5.7%.” (“RevPAR” refers to revenue per available room.)

Figures Visit Sarasota County provided to the Tourist Development Council (TDC) show the average daily room rate for hotels/motels/condominiums in December 2016 was $174.55.

“This is a solid performance given the increase of new hotel rooms compared” to the county situation in December 2016, Haley wrote in her Feb. 1 email.

During the Feb. 15 TDC meeting, Haley pointed out that the county has about 1,000 more hotel rooms to fill, thanks to new construction.

For the first quarter of the 2018 fiscal year, Visit Sarasota County reported that it generated 12,002 room nights, compared to 8,439 for the same period of the 2017 fiscal year.

“In the October-December quarter 2017,” Haley continued in her Feb. 1 email, “we saw solid increases in visitors from the [United Kingdom] but a drop off in our Canadian markets. Our top visitor origin markets for October-December 2017 were New York City, Tampa Bay area, Miami-Ft Lauderdale, Atlanta and Chicago.”

The TDT location report for collections through December 2017 shows the city of Sarasota still in the lead. Image courtesy Sarasota County Tax Collector’s Office

The latest TDT report on collections by location in the county shows the city of Sarasota continuing in the lead, with 34.05% of the total through December 2017. Siesta Key was in second place, with 25.52%.

In recent years, the city has been the top location for the early part of the fiscal year, but Siesta Key has surpassed it by the end of the fiscal year.