County’s ‘bed tax’ revenue sets a new record

Surpassing $40 million, total is almost 30% higher than previous record

With the September numbers in, marking the close of the 2022 fiscal year, Sarasota County’s Tourist Development Tax — or, “bed tax” — revenue officially set a new record: $40,273,993.36, as Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates and her staff have reported.

The total amount of Tourist Development Tax (TDT) funds generated during the 2021 fiscal year was $31,057,057.17, Ford-Coates and her staff have noted. Thus, the new record is $9.2 million — or nearly 30% — higher than the previous one.

For more than a decade — before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted tourism worldwide — the bed tax revenue in Sarasota County routinely set a new annual record.

During a February 2020 meeting of the county’s Tourist Development Council, Kim Radtke, director of the Office of Financial Management, said the TDT revenue had an average growth rate of 9.6% over the previous 10 years. The average for the past five years, as of that time, was 6.6%, then-County Commissioner Charles Hines added, referring to another slide Radtke presented to the advisory council that day.

Hines was the chair of the council.

However, as a result of the pandemic — whose first Florida cases were identified in Sarasota in March 2020 — the TDT funds in the 2020 fiscal year totaled only $21,075,330.90.

During this September, the TDT collections added up to $1,734,866.01, which was up $158,062.66, compared to the figure for September 2021, Ford-Coates and her staff noted of the latest data. The September total also was the lowest for a month in the 2022 fiscal year.

Owners and managers of businesses in the hospitality industry have said for years that September typically is the quietest month for county tourism.

The bed tax is collected on rentals of accommodations for six months or less time. On Oct. 1, with the beginning of the 2023 fiscal year, the tax rose from 5% to 6%, thanks to a vote months ago by the Sarasota County Commission.

As shown in the latest data, the only month of the 2022 fiscal year that saw less revenue collected than the same month in the 2021 fiscal year was June. The month-over-month drop was $66,389.41, the latest report shows. That marked a slight drop from the figure noted in the previous update from Ford-Coates and her staff. The August data showed a month-over-month decline of $66,585.66 for June.

Ford-Coates and her staff have explained that audits and other enforcement actions can lead to changes in figures from one report to the next.

As usual, March was the month that accounted for the highest amount of TDT revenue during the 2022 fiscal year. The total was $6,010,481.55; that compared to $4,578,832.48 in March 2021.

The collections for January, February and April all exceeded the $4-million mark, the reports note.

The largest month-over-month increase came in January, the data show, with the funds higher this January by $1,694,884.08.

Among other details in the new reports, the Tax Collector’s Office received a total of $5,048,492.08 from Airbnb, on behalf of its hosts in the county, during the 2022 fiscal year. The online platform does not identify individuals who rent properties through its website, Ford-Coates and her staff have pointed out.

At the end of the 2021 fiscal year, Airbnb hosts had accounted for $3,958,161.03 of the TDT revenue. Thus, the total for the 2022 fiscal year is approximately 28% higher than the figure for the 2021 fiscal year.

Altogether, the latest data show, online accommodations platforms — including TripAdvisor and HomeAway and their subsidiaries — accounted for 19.77% of the TDT revenue in the 2022 fiscal year. That is down slightly from the figure of 20.68% for the 2021 fiscal year.

Additionally, entities in the city of Sarasota that collect the bed tax won the figurative competition with those on Siesta Key this year — an uncommon occurrence, as Ford-Coates and her staff have reported. Usually, Siesta Key prevails by the end of a fiscal year.

The city’s portion of the 2022 TDT revenue was 27.53%, compared to 25.9% for Siesta Key.

At the end of the 2020 fiscal year, the city narrowly beat Siesta Key — 27.77% compared to Siesta’s 27.74%.

Accommodations on the barrier island edged out the city last year, accounting for 26.76% of the 2021 fiscal year total, compared to the city’s 26.14%.

Vacation rentals in the Town of Longboat Key and in the City of North Port both accounted for a higher portion of the TDT revenue during the 2022 fiscal year, the new data note. For Longboat Key, the figure was 8.22%; last fiscal year, it was 8.04%. North Port was responsible for 0.72% in the 2022 fiscal year, compared to 0.59% in the 2021 fiscal year.

Along with the monthly TDT reports from Ford-Coates and her staff, Visit Sarasota County, the county’s tourism office, also provides community leaders updates that it receives from a Tallahassee research firm, Downs & St. Germain, regarding tourism figures.

Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota County, provided the following details for September, based on preliminary data:

  • The number of visitors who stayed in paid lodging was 101,300, a 17.2% increase, compared to the figure for September 2021.
  • Visitors’ direct expenditures totaled $77,444,800 in September, which marked a 24.9% jump, compared to the amount in September 2021.
  • Lodging occupancy was 50.9%, which was essentially flat, compared to the figure for September 2021.
  • The average daily room rate was $177.35, which was up 8.7%, compared to the rate for September 2021.
  • The number of room nights sold was 190,900, which was higher by 8.9% than the total for September 2021.