Orange makes a killing in tourist-tax collection

Published on : Thursday, November 7, 2013

orange countyOrlando Sentinel: Orange County has good news for both hoteliers and fans of Orlando’s sports and performance venues: Tourist-tax collections hit a record a whopping $187 million this year.

Revenue from the 6 per cent nightly room tax is a barometer for the health of Orlando’s tourism industry. It reflects how many visitors stayed for overnight trips to Orlando’s attractions.


But the record year is also a good sign for the city’s venues, including the Amway Center, Florida Citrus Bowl and the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. All three rely on the tax for construction or renovation, and so will the city’s newly approved soccer stadium.

For Kathy Ramsberger, who heads the performing-arts project in downtown Orlando, the success of the tourist-development tax instills confidence in potential donors. During the economic downturn, when tourist taxes suffered, fundraising for the center became difficult.

“The question was always, ‘When is the TDT coming back?'” Ramsberger said. The return of robust collections is “just going to help with additional momentum for the project.”
It’s a positive for plans to build a soccer stadium, too. About one-fourth of the money for the planned $84 million stadium — a condition of getting a Major League Soccer team in Orlando — will come from tourist taxes.

The county said this week that the $187 million record for the fiscal year that ended in September was up 6.7 percent from $175.3 million the year before. The previous record was set in 2011, when the tax generated $175.9 million.

Tax collections have jumped as prices rise at places such as Walt Disney World, the region’s biggest hotel owner, with about 27,000 rooms and time-share villas. Per-room spending at Disney’s U.S. hotels rose 3.8 percent, from $261 a night to $271 a night, during the first nine months of Disney’s fiscal year. Hotel spending includes food and merchandise in addition to rooms.

Other hotels in Central Florida also have done well, according to data from Smith Travel Research. Through September, hotels have increased their average occupancy rate from 70 per cent to 71.8 per cent. Average daily rates have increased 4.1 per cent, even though there are slightly more rooms on the market.

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