January ‘bed tax’ collections exceed $4 million — first time that month has crossed that threshold

Rentals of accommodations through online platforms account for more than 20% of funds

This is a view within Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park in North Port. It was one of many county settings that Visit Sarasota County featured on its Facebook page in January. This one had the tagline, ‘Find a beautiful place to enjoy the outdoors 🌱🚶‍♂️🍃’

In years past, Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates and her staff have made a point of underscoring the fact that March typically has been the only month when the Tourist Development Tax — or “bed tax” — revenue has exceeded $4 million.

This fiscal year, January climbed into that category, as noted in the latest Tourist Development Tax (TDT) reports from Ford-Coates and her staff.

Altogether, January saw revenue of $4,207,683.15, which was higher by $1,466,968.19, or approximately 54%, than the figure recorded in January 2021, when vaccinations against COVID-19 were just becoming available to the general public.

The total for January of this year also is greater than the January 2020 collections by $1,118,219.66, the latest reports show.

Through the first four months of this fiscal year — which began on Oct. 1, 2021 — the Tax Collector’s Office has taken in $11,447,904.78 in TDT revenue. That figure is up $4,390,049.62, or about 67%, compared to the total for the same four months of the 2021 fiscal year, Ford-Coates and her staff note.

In contrast, the total revenue Ford-Coates and her staff initially reported for the first four months of the 2021 fiscal year — with the pandemic fully underway — was $6,838,375.30.

Moreover, the amount collected for the first third of the 2022 fiscal year represents almost 37% of the total TDT revenue for the 2021 fiscal year, which was $31,052,153.87 — a new county record.

The latest reports also show that Airbnb collections continue to climb. Through January, the total amount of TDT revenue that Airbnb hosts have turned over to the Tax Collector’s Office was $1,501,643.50, the latest data say. For the first four months of the 2021 fiscal year, the figure was $966,905.12, Ford-Coates and her staff reported at that time.

Thus, the latest Airbnb total is 55% higher than the figure for the first four months of the 2021 fiscal year.

Moreover, the amounts for the first three months’ of TDT collections have increased in the latest reports, compared to the earlier totals. Ford-Coates and her staff have explained that audits and other enforcement actions can lead to changes from month to month.

For example, the new report says the October 2021 TDT revenue is up $781,668.81, compared to the figure for October 2020. The uptick month-over-month in the previous report was $775,529.87.

For December 2021, the new data show the revenue increased by $1,187,625.60, compared to the total for December 2020. The previous report put that month-over-month hike at $1,174,703.17. Thus, the latest figure is about 11% higher than the earlier number.

This is the latest Tourist Development Tax comparison report. Image courtesy Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates

Among other details, Ford-Coates and her staff note in the new reports that entities in the city of Sarasota that collect TDT revenue still are leading those on Siesta Key. The city’s share of the total thus far this fiscal year was 27.1% through January. For Siesta, the share was 23.01%.

Siesta typically overtakes the city before the end of the fiscal year.

The revenue produced by Airbnb and other online platforms accounted for 21.06% of the total TDT revenue for the first four months of this fiscal year, the reports show.

Sheri Smith, chief deputy tax collector for Sarasota County, reminded members of the county’s Tourist Development Council on March 10 that Airbnb began turning over its hosts’ revenue to Ford-Coates and her staff in May 2017, thanks to the work of the county officials to secure that arrangement. Then, she noted, in April 2019, a county agreement was forged with TripAdvisor and HomeAway and all of their subsidiaries to turn over their hosts’ revenue to the Tax Collector’s Office.

On Feb. 24, Airbnb released its list of the top trending international and domestic destinations this spring, alongside what the company called “the top wish listed Airbnbs in 2022 for U.S. travelers.” The release added, with emphasis, “[I]t comes as no surprise that destinations across Florida have made the cut.”

The release pointed out — again with emphasis, “[M]any families are looking to travel domestically, seeking destinations packed with theme parks and other child-friendly amusements, as well as sunny, warm beaches. With that in mind, Florida is high on the priority list, claiming half of the top destinations for families.” 

This is the latest Tourist Development Tax location report. Image courtesy Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates

In the report that Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota County (VSC), provided local government leaders about the data her office tracks, she noted that the number of visitors staying in paid lodging in January was 94,100, a 7.4% increase, compared to the figure for January 2021.

She also pointed to the following data:

  • Visitors’ direct spending in January added up to $155,590,800, a 69.4% increase over the January 2021 total.
  • Lodging occupancy in January was 75.8%, which was up 31.6%, compared to the January 2021 figure.
  • The average room rate for lodging in January was $227.65, a 28.4% increase, compared to the January 2021 amount.
  • The number of room nights sold in January was 258,500, an 18.6% uptick, compared to the total for January 2021.

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