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, Comptroller Phil Diamond announced Thursday in a news release.
The 2021-22 accounting period that began Oct. 1, 2021 soared to $311.9 million through Aug. 31, surpassing the previous high of $284 million raised by room tax over 12 months in fiscal 2018- 19.
The August numbers were buoyed by steady room demand and an average daily room rate of $125.60, Diamond said.
In 2019, the tax raised $19.75 million in August, the highest previous total for the month, and the average daily room rate was $107.01, despite the threat of a hurricane, according to research by Visit Orlando, the tax-funded tourism marketing arm in central florida
Hurricane Dorian devastated the Bahamas in late August 2019, but eventually moved away from Florida.
Hotel tax, also known as tourist development tax or TDT, is a 6% surcharge added to the price of a hotel room or other short-term accommodations, including Airbnb and other shared housing options.
Viewed as an indicator of the month-over-month health of tourism here, DTT revenue pays for the Orange County Convention Center; fund Visit Orlando; and defray the costs of Orlando’s cultural venues, including the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, the Amway Center and Camping World Stadium.
A small portion goes to local arts groups and bidding fees for special sporting events like Wrestlemania and World Cup games.
The DTT reports are a month behind the charges, which means that the charges for September are not yet accounted for.
The tax brought in $23.4 million in August, about $5.1 million less than July but about $7 million more than August 2021.
Diamond advised Orange County commissioners in a memo in June that they should not commit to new revenue funding commitments unless revenues exceed $300 million within 12 months and financial reserve funds are replenished in a total of $300 million.
Although the collections exceeded $300 million, the reserves are around $259 million.
“It is impossible to predict when, how much, and why there may be sudden and significant shortfalls in the future,” Diamond wrote in the memo. “However, it is fiscally prudent to plan ahead and mitigate risks, especially given our recent history, to protect the County from potential future shortfalls.”
He cited the sharp drop in hotel tax revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic as an example.
In a follow-up presentation to commissioners on August 9, the comptroller used the image of a roller coaster to illustrate how DTT revenues rise in good times and plummet in bad times, making the tax a Unstable and risky source of income. .
The county drained $100 million from reserve funds in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and collections fell 32%.
Collections fell more than 15% between 2008 and 2009 due to the Great Recession.
The county pulled $145.5 million from reserves during the pandemic as theme parks closed and conventions were canceled.
August added $9.4 million to reserve funds that have been rebuilt to around $258.5 million.
The summer of 2022 was a strong one 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 in all three months combined, putting our destination above pre-pandemic levels for the summer,” he said in a statement to the Orlando Sentinel, noting that both the leisure and convention business performed well. .
The Orange County Convention Center hosted some big shows, including the World Discipleship Summit, a 12-day religious gathering, and the Isagenix Celebration, a convention for distributors of the multi-level marketing company’s dietary supplement and personal care products. .
Disney World and Universal Orlando closed their parks for two days, on September 28 and 29, due to Hurricane Ian.
Other attractions also closed due to strong winds and heavy rains that flooded the region.
Matej said advance hotel bookings for Orlando leisure travel for the final months of 2022 are slightly below pre-pandemic levels.
Among the events expected to bring visitors is the Electric Daisy Carnival music festival, scheduled for November 11-13 at Tinker Field.