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County commissioners vote to raise Hillsborough tourism tax

Hillsborough County is raising its tourism development tax. Pictured is the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina in 2018. [Times (2018)]
Hillsborough County is raising its tourism development tax. Pictured is the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina in 2018. [Times (2018)]
Published Jun. 5, 2019

TAMPA — Hillsborough County commissioners voted Wednesday to raise the county's tax on overnight stays to 6 percent. The vote is a year in the making, following Hillsborough County's designation as a "high-impact" tourism destination in 2018.

Counties can raise their tourism development tax once they generate more than $600 million in hotel revenue in a given year. Hillsborough County passed that threshold last year by generating $644 million in hotel revenue, amounting to roughly $700 million before taxes. It hadn't elected to raise its tax until now.

"This is a one-shot opportunity," Commission chairman Les Miller said. "If we don't get it this year and the number isn't reached until next year, we miss it."

The proposal passed 6-1, with Stacy White as the only no vote. The county's tourism development tax was 5 percent, or five cents for every dollar charged for a hotel stay or short term rental. The increase is expected to net the county an extra $6.4 million annually.

"Through their decision today, commissioners strengthened the financial outlook for tens of thousands of families across the region," said Santiago Corrada, Visit Tampa Bay president and CEO. "Visit Tampa Bay is thrilled to see tourism receive such strong support from our industry partners and from the community as a whole."

Among the reasons commissioners cited for supporting the tax was the opportunity to bring more people to the region and potentially convert them to residents.

"We've got approximately 1,700 (people) a month moving to Hillsborough County," commissioner Kimberly Overman said. "That didn't happen because they came here and had a bad time. They came because they found a wonderful place to live and work and hopefully play, too."

Hillsborough County's tourism revenue has been especially strong as of late. The county collected roughly $11.4 million in tourism taxes during the first quarter, $4 million in March alone.

Contact Malena Carollo at mcarollo@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2249. Follow @malenacarollo.