Tourist Development Tax revenue continues to lag

Through March 31, total is down $211,920.24 compared to the same period in the 2016 fiscal year

Siesta Key Beach remains among the county’s most popular tourist destinations. File photo

Sarasota County’s Tourist Development Tax (TDT) revenue collections continued their year-over-year decline through February, according to the latest figures compiled by staff of the Sarasota County Tax Collector’s Office.

Through Feb. 28, the total TDT collections for this fiscal year — which began Oct. 1, 2016 — are down $211,920.24 compared to the same period in the 2016 fiscal year, the figures show. Thus far, the revenue brought in by entities countywide is $8,511,090.77, the Tax Collector’s Office reports.

Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates pointed out just last month to members of the county’s Tourist Development Council that the TDT revenue figures often are updated: “Sometimes we continue to collect [money for a previous month] during the subsequent months.”

Her staff also has explained to The Sarasota News Leader that entities are required to report their collections by a specific date each month; therefore, after they have had the opportunity to undertake a more thorough review of the finances, they sometimes provide revised figures to the Tax Collector’s Office.

For example, through the end of February, the office reported that the January collections were down $220,437.85 compared to the January 2016 figure. However, the report dated March 31 shows a revised figure that puts the total lower by $157,836.87, compared to the number for January 2016.

The Tourist Development Tax collections through March 31 continue to fall behind those for the same period of the previous fiscal year. Image courtesy Tax Collector’s Office

The December 2016 figure also has improved, the latest data show. The February report noted that TDT collections in December 2016 were down by $26,093.01 compared to the figure for December 2015. By the release of the March 31 report, the December 2016 was lower by $17,680.14.

Since the current fiscal year began, the latest data show, the largest year-over-year increase in TDT revenue came in November 2016. That month saw collections totaling $1,043,236.86, which was higher by $42,276.14 than the November 2015 figure.

During the March 23 Tourist Development Council meeting, Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota County, reported that tourism originating in foreign countries other than Canada had been significantly lower. She attributed that largely to the U.S. political climate, including new Homeland Security and Customs procedures implemented by the Trump Administration that could necessitate international travelers being asked to turn over the passwords to their social media accounts.

The number of visitors from the United Kingdom “and German-speaking central Europe continues to decline,” Haley notified county and city leaders in a Feb. 27 report on the latest tourism research her office had commissioned.

In regard to the latest TDT collections by location: The city of Sarasota and Siesta Key continue to lead all others, and they are separated by 0.21%. Revenue collected by city of Sarasota entities totaled $2,594,838.97 through March 31, for 30.49% of the total. Siesta Key reported $2,576,932.10, or 30.28%.

The city of North Port had the lowest portion of the collections in the latest report: 0.27%, or $22,883.31.

In the 2016 fiscal year, the total amount of TDT revenue was $20,085,262.34, which was a county record.