Number of visitors in August climbs 7.6%, compared to August 2022 figure
With just one month’s of collections left to be recorded for the 2023 fiscal year, Sarasota County’s Tourist Development Tax (TDT) — or, “bed tax” — revenue is higher by $9,351,790 than the amount collected through the same 11 months of the 2022 fiscal year, as shown in the latest reports from Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates and her staff.
The total through August was $47,908,460.16, the reports note. That is up approximately 25.4%, compared to the amount of revenue initially reported through August 2022: $38,197,527.56.
Moreover, the figure through August is almost 19% above the total for the 2022 fiscal year, which was $40,307,666.28, and that was a new record for the county.
For August, entities that collect the tax turned over $2,324,144.41 to Ford-Coates and her staff, the new data show. That was higher by $186,996.08 — close to 9% — than the figure for August 2022: $2,137,148.33.
The 6% bed tax is collected on rentals of accommodations for six months or less time. The funds are used for a wide variety of tourism-related activities — from beach maintenance and renourishment to the upkeep of the two Major League Baseball stadiums in the county to promoting the county to visitors.
Among other details in the latest reports, the revenue from Airbnb hosts through August added up to $6,521,492.05. That is up nearly 39%, compared to the fiscal year tally through August 2022: $4,698,684.70.
Airbnb was the first online rental platform with which county staff was able to work out an agreement for the company to turn over its Tourist Development Tax revenue to the Tax Collector’s Office. However, Airbnb does not identify its hosts, including their locations in the county.
Altogether, through August, the online platforms had contributed 20.83% of the total TDT revenue for the 2023 fiscal year, the latest reports note. Through August 2022, their revenue made up 19.72% of the total.
The other platforms with which the county has agreements are TripAdvisor and HomeAway, plus all of their subsidiaries. However, those agreements do not permit the Tax Collector’s Office to identify how much money came from any of the specific platforms.
As for the location data: For years, the City of Sarasota and Siesta Key have waged a figurative battle over which can contribute the highest amount of TDT revenue to the county. Through August, the city remained in the lead, with 26.29% of the total, while Siesta Key entities that collect the tax had turned over 25.71% of the revenue.
The city prevailed last year.
Additionally, the new data show that the collections totals have risen for June and July.
Last month’s figures put the June total higher than the June 2022 amount by $569,007.35. That has been revised to $570,403.09. The previous report put the month-over-month uptick for July at $367,521.18. The new reports show the increase as $370,744.98.
Ford-Coates and her staff note that audits and other enforcement actions can lead to changes in the figures as each fiscal year progresses.
Along with the monthly reports from the Tax Collector’s Office, Visit Sarasota County, the county’s tourism office, commissions research from a Tallahassee firm, Downs & St. Germain.
The August report from that firm points out that the number of visitors to the county was up 7.6%, compared to the total for August 2022. The figure for this August was 127,610; for August 2022, it was 118,600.
Moreover, those visitors’ direct expenditures rose 8.5%, month-over-month, the report says. The total this August was $88,487,300; in August 2022, it was $81,589,700.
However, the report continues, the occupancy rate for accommodations declined 3%, from 60.6% in August 2022 to 58.8% this August.
On the other hand, the average room rate rose 14.8%, from $191.99 in August 2022 to $220.43 this August.
The number of room nights sold also was up by 5.1%. In August 2022, the total was 234,800; this August, the tally was 246,800.
Finally, Downs & St. Germain staff check each month with property managers to determine their outlook for the coming months. In August, the report says, property managers “were less optimistic about the next three months, with nearly 3 in 5 [of them] reporting decreased demand, and only 14% reporting increased demand.”