Orange resort tax revenue hits record high in 2021-22, reserves replenish – Orlando Sentinel

Orange County hotel tax collections produced another record month in August, the seventh in a row, bringing the fiscal year total to more than $300 million for the first time ever, Comptroller Phil Diamond said Thursday. in a press release.

The 2021-22 accounting period, which began Oct. 1, 2021, soared to $311.9 million through Aug. 31, breaking the previous record of $284 million generated from the 12-month rooms tax in the during the 2018-2019 financial year.

The August numbers were driven by steady room demand and an average daily rate of $125.60, Diamond said.

In 2019, the tax brought in $19.75 million in August, the previous high total for the month, and the average daily room rate was $107.01, despite a hurricane threat, according to research by Visit. Orlando, the tax-funded tourism marketing arm. Central Florida.

Hurricane Dorian devastated the Bahamas in late August 2019, but eventually moved away from Florida.

Hotel Tax, also known as Tourism Development Tax or TDT for short, is a 6% surcharge added to the price of a hotel room or other short-term accommodation, including Airbnb and hotel accommodation. other roommate options.

Considered an indicator of the monthly health of tourism here, TDT revenue pays the Orange County Convention Center; fund Visit Orlando; and cover the costs of cultural sites in Orlando, including the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, Amway Center, and Camping World Stadium.

A small portion goes to local arts groups and auction fees for special sporting events like Wrestlemania and World Cup matches.

TDT reports are about a month behind collections, meaning September collections are not counted yet.

The tax brought in $23.4 million in August, down about $5.1 million from July, but up about $7 million from August 2021.

Diamond advised Orange County commissioners in a memo in June that they should not commit to new revenue fundraising commitments unless collections exceed $300 million over a period of 12 months and that the financial reserve funds are replenished for a total of 300 million dollars.

While collections have topped $300 million, reserves stand at approximately $259 million.

“It is impossible to predict when, how many, or why there may be sudden and major shortages in the future,” Diamond wrote in the memo. “However, it is fiscally prudent to plan ahead and mitigate risk, especially given our recent history, to protect the county from potential future shortfalls.”

He cited as an example the sharp drop in hotel tax revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a follow-up presentation to commissioners on August 9, the Comptroller used the rollercoaster image to illustrate how TDT’s collections soar in good times and plummet during bad times, making the tax an unstable source of revenue and risky. .

The county drained $100 million from reserve funds following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and collections dropped 32%.

Collections fell by more than 15% from 2008 to 2009 due to the Great Recession.

The county pulled $145.5 million from reserves during the pandemic when theme parks closed and conventions were canceled.

August added $9.4 million to reserve funds which have been rebuilt to around $258.5 million.

The summer of 2022 has been strong for tourism in Central Florida, said Casandra Matej, president and CEO of Visit Orlando.

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“For June, July and August, hotel demand exceeded 2019 for the three months combined, putting our destination ahead of pre-pandemic levels for the summer,” she said in a statement to the Orlando. Sentinel, noting that leisure and convention activities have performed well. .

The Orange County Convention Center has hosted big shows, including the World Discipleship Summit, a 12-day religious gathering, and the Isagenix Celebration, a convention for distributors of the multi-marketing company’s dietary supplements and personal care products. levels.

Disney World and Universal Orlando closed their parks for two days, September 28 and 29, due to Hurricane Ian.

Other attractions also closed due to high winds and heavy rains that flooded the area.

Matej said advance hotel bookings for leisure travel in Orlando for the final months of 2022 are slightly below pre-pandemic levels.

Among the events expected to attract visitors is the Electric Daisy Carnival music festival, scheduled for Nov. 11-13 at Tinker Field.

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