County tourism figures maintain their climb this fiscal year, based on latest revenue report and research undertaken for Visit Sarasota County

‘Bed tax’ revenue remains on pace to break another record

Charts provided by Visit Sarasota County show statistics for August. Image courtesy Visit Sarasota County

Through the end of July, Sarasota County’s Tourist Development Tax (TDT) collections continued to outpace the total for the same period of the 2016 fiscal year, according to the latest figures released by the Sarasota County Tax Collector’s Office.

And through August, the number of tourists who have made Sarasota County their destination this fiscal year is up by 2.2%, with their spending higher by 2.6%, compared to the same period last year, Visit Sarasota County reported.

From Oct. 1, 2016 through August, the tourism office reported, 1,131,6280 visitors had stayed in the county’s paid accommodations, based on research undertaken by Downs & St. Germain, a Tallahassee firm that handles such work for Visit Sarasota County. Those tourists have had an economic impact of $1,746,729,800, the Downs & St. Germain report notes. Their direct spending in August was $39,432,100, up 2.8% from the $38,363,100 visitors spent in August 2016, the report says.

Entities that collect the “bed tax” reported revenue totaling $19,092,763.86 from Oct. 1, 2016 through July 31, the Tax Collector’s Office notes; that was $802,525.72 higher than the figure for the same period of the previous fiscal year.

The total for July was up by $157,125.12, compared to the figure for July 2016, the data show. Altogether, the Tax Collector’s Office report says, $1,757,389.51 in TDT revenue was reported for July of this year.

In FY16, the county broke its TDT revenue record, with a total of $20,108,494.25, Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates has pointed out to the county’s Tourist Development Council.

The Tourist Development Tax collections through July 31 continue their upward trend. Image courtesy Sarasota County Tax Collector’s Office

Only two more months of reports remain to determine the final total for this fiscal year.

Because of the necessity of businesses and others who collect the tax to meet reporting deadlines set by Ford-Coates’ office — and because of subsequent audits — figures can change from month-to-month. For example, the total for June collections in the previous Tax Collector’s Office report was $169,506.15; the most recent number for that month is $197,085.41.

Additional adjustments of the earlier figures have contributed to the overall uptick in revenue, compared to the 2016 total.

Among other Visit Sarasota County statistics for August, the Downs & St. Germain report notes that the number of domestic visitors from the Southeast and other parts of Florida has continued to grow, “while international visitation remains sluggish.”

Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota County, told the Tourist Development Council members earlier this year that a new federal government initiative that allows Customs agents and other officers to require international passengers to reveal social media passwords was expected to have a significant impact on tourism from abroad.

The Visit Sarasota County data also show that hotel occupancy was up 1% in August, compared to the same month in 2016, and revenue per available room was up 1.1%. Additionally, the number of room nights used by tourists in August increased 2.4%, compared to the August 2016 figure, even with more rooms available.

More importantly, the Downs & St. Germain report says that owners and general managers of accommodations continue to be very optimistic about tourism in the coming months. The most recent survey showed that 42% of them “expect demand to be up in the next 3 months compared to only 27% for the same period last year.”

As for the location reporting figures in the latest Tax Collector’s Office data: Siesta Key entities continue to lead in revenue for this fiscal year, having collected 33.55% of the money through August. The city of Sarasota remained in second place, with 29.68%.

Siesta Key has been the top location for TDT collections for the past several fiscal years.

Siesta Key remains the leader among locations for collections of the ‘bed tax.’ Image courtesy Tax Collector’s Office