July’s tourist and hotel occupancy figures break records for that month, Visit Sarasota County reports

Tourist Development Tax revenue continues to climb year-over-year, as well

Siesta Village is busy on an early August evening. Rachel Hackney photo

July’s tourism figures broke all records for that month in Sarasota County, Virginia Haley, president and CEO of Visit Sarasota County, has reported to local government leaders.

“We had a 1.4% increase in hotel occupancy over July last year to 77.6% — the best ever for July,” she wrote in an Aug. 24 email. “Hotel average room rates grew by 1.8% to $182.79 for July,” she added.

Additionally, “We had a 2.9% increase in the number of visitors this July compared to last year,” for a total of 111,100, she continued, “and their spending for the same period grew to $84,935,800, a 2.7% increase.”

The latest report from Sarasota County Tax Collector’s Office shows the county has received more than $17 million in Tourist Development Tax (TDT) revenue thus far this fiscal year, which began on Oct. 1, 2016. Collections through June were higher by $611,993.32 than revenue for the same period of the 2016 fiscal year.

The June figures marked the fourth month of increases reported by the entities that collect the county’s 5% “bed tax.”

Altogether, through June, the county had received $17,300,571.19, putting it on track potentially to surpass the record of $20,106,394.01 that it achieved in the 2016 fiscal year, according to the Tax Collector’s Office records.

The latest Tourist Development Tax revenue report continues to show a positive trend. Image courtesy Sarasota County Tax Collector’s Office

Additionally, the latest report shows that Airbnb collections totaled $125,030.37 through the end of June. The county signed an agreement with the internet-based accommodations service in early April; collections began on May 1.

In her Aug. 24 report, Haley noted that from October through July, the number of visitors was up 2.1% over the same period in the last fiscal, “and their direct expenditures grew by 2.6%.”

Additionally, she wrote, “This month we saw the opening of two more hotels, with the Westin and Homewood Suites joining our tourism family.”

Tens of thousands of visitors are expected next month, she pointed out, when Sarasota and Manatee counties host the 2017 World Rowing Championships at Nathan Benderson Park near University Parkway. “Hard to believe that we have only one month to go before the start of [that event]!” Haley added.

A graphic shows details about new hotels in downtown Sarasota. Image courtesy Visit Sarasota County

In a presentation to the County Commission this week regarding Visit Sarasota County’s proposed budget for the 2018 fiscal year, Haley underscored the fact that the most recent research shows that the annual economic impact of tourism on the county is $2,827,895,700. Visitors to the community “save each of our households $634 in taxes,” she added, referring to TDT collections.

“Tourism matters,” Haley continued, “because it’s a significant economic driver in this county. It creates a lot of jobs.”

Since 2014, she noted, the county has seen an 87% increase in the number of jobs tied to tourism. “Even better news,” she added, “[is] we’re seeing growth in the wages.”

Breaking down the TDT figures

Year-over-year, June saw an increase of $169,506.15 in TDT revenue, the Tax Collector’s Office reported, based on figures provided to that office by all the entities that collect the tax.

The June total was $1,642,789.05, the fifth largest thus far this fiscal year. March was the top month, followed by February, January and April.

Just before Memorial Day weekend began, Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman — known internationally as “Dr. Beach” — named Siesta Public Beach No. 1 once again in the United States. The beach also won that honor in 2011, which sparked a big jump in tourism on Siesta Key, business owners told this reporter that year.

A graphic shows details about other hotels opening in Sarasota County. Image courtesy Visit Sarasota County

Furthermore, revised TDT figures for earlier months show higher totals for March, April and May, according to the Tax Collector’s Office.

Because of audits after entities report their figures to the office, the numbers can change month-to-month in a fiscal year, Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates has told local government leaders.

The May year-over-year increase grew to $133,192.52, compared to the earlier report of $102,988.

The latest data for April shows a year-over-year gain of $277,885.48, compared to the previous increase put at $274,753.78.

For March, the latest data show the total collected was $3,519,041.66, compared to the March 2016 figure of $3,391,809.24. The latest figure represents an increase of $127,232.42 year-over-year. The previous report from the Tax Collector’s Office showed the year-over-year uptick for that month was $119,668.85.

Siesta Key continues to lead with Tourist Development Tax collections this fiscal year. Image courtesy Tax Collector’s Office

As it has in recent months, Siesta Key is continuing to lead the TDT collections in comparison by location. Through June, 32.8% of the revenue was brought in by entities on the island, for a total of $5,674,882.10.

The city of Sarasota remained in second place, with collections adding up to $5,165,076.51, or 29.85% of the total thus far this fiscal year.

Only three months of this fiscal year have failed to mark increases compared to the same months in the 2016 fiscal year: January, December and February. However, subsequent audits have continued to lower the deficits.

The fiscal year will end on Sept. 30.