Through June, county’s ‘bed tax’ revenue up more than $7.5 million, compared to total for 2020 fiscal year

Recovery from pandemic’s negative impact on tourism in 2020 made clear in latest data

Competitors in a 2021 Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix P1 event race offshore of Lido Key in late June. The annual summer boat races typically draw thousands of visitors to the county. Image from a video showing the 2021 Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix races

With only three months of collections left for the current fiscal year, Sarasota County’s Tourist Development Tax — or, “bed tax” — revenue already is more than $7.5 million higher than the total the county took in for the 2020 fiscal year.

The June reports released by Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates and her staff show the collections almost double the amount for the June of 2020, in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. The total Tourist Development Tax (TDT) revenue for this June was $3,216,707.78, compared to $1,647,125.81 in June 2020.

The figure for this June also is approximately 75% higher than the amount turned over to Ford-Coates’ office in June 2019: $1,832,293.39, the latest data show.

Through June of this year, the county has taken in $24,328,454.78 in TDT revenue, the reports show. That amount is $7,492,537.93 higher than the figure for the entire 2020 fiscal year, which ended on Sept. 30, 2020: $21,071,518.01.

In the 2019 fiscal year, the county’s TDT revenue added up to $23,379,751.92.

For years, the county had achieved milestone after milestone in bed tax collections, leading county officials to predict it would not be long before the annual revenue would surpass the $30-million mark. At the latter level, the county would be eligible to charge a 6% tax for rentals of accommodations for six months or less time, instead of the current 5%.

This is the latest data regarding the county’s Tourist Development Tax revenue collections. Image courtesy Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates

The latest data also show that the county has collected $3,096,662 from Airbnb hosts since the fiscal year began on Oct. 1, 2020. Altogether, accommodations rented through online platforms have brought in 20.57% of the TDT revenue through June, the reports note. That compares to Siesta Key’s 26.64% share of the revenue and the City of Sarasota’s portion, at 25.69%.

The city and the Key figuratively have competed in the past to see which would end up generating the greatest percentage of the TDT revenue by the end of the fiscal year.

For June 2020, the Airbnb total was $1,229,239.93. Thus, the amount for this June is about two-and-a-half times higher than the figure for the previous June. Moreover, through June 2020, TDT revenue resulting from rentals through online platforms accounted for only 13.42% of the total that Ford-Coates and her staff reported as of that month.

Thanks to collaboration with the Office of the County Attorney, hosts working through Vrbo and TripAdvisor — and all of their subsidiaries — as well as those who advertise on Airbnb’s website provide their TDT tax revenue to the companies, which, in turn, pay it to the Tax Collector’s Office each month. Under the terms of the agreements, none of the hosts is identified.

Among other details in the latest reports, the amount of revenue collected for May is up from the initial figure. Instead of adding up to $2,012,159.32 more than the May 2020 total, the revised total is higher by $2,125,581.80.

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

For another example, an earlier report showed that the TDT collections for February were down $675,830.30, compared to the figure for February 2020. The latest data show that drop was $663,122.61.

This chart compares Tourist Development Tax collections by location. Image courtesy Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates

In her report to community leaders about county tourism in June, Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota County, took the same tack she used the previous month: She compared the June information collected for her office by a Tallahassee research firm to the figures the firm recorded for June 2019.

The number of visitors in paid lodging in June 2019 was 99,300, Haley wrote in an email; in 2021, the total was 132,700, a 33.6% increase.

Visitors’ direct spending in June 2019 was $81,663,300, Haley continued. In June 2021, the amount was $117,693,300, a 44.1% jump.

Lodging occupancy in June 2019 was 63.8%, she wrote; in June 2021, it was 81.3%, an increase of 27.4%.

The average daily room rate in June 2019 was $157.19, Haley noted. This June, it was $204.55, a 31% uptick.

Finally, Haley reported that the number of rooms sold in June 2019 was 211,500. The figure for this June was up 35.9%, to 287,400.