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Visit Tampa Bay breaks tourism tax record for 2019

Hillsborough grew its bed tax revenue by more than $1 million over its latest fiscal year.
Curtis Hixon Park in Tampa during an Oktoberfest event. [Times 2012]
Curtis Hixon Park in Tampa during an Oktoberfest event. [Times 2012]
Published Oct. 31, 2019
Updated Oct. 31, 2019

TAMPA — Hillsborough County’s tourism industry had another solid year, bringing in record-breaking bed tax revenue once again.

Visit Tampa Bay, the agency charged with promoting the county to tourists, collected $35.4 million through its tourism tax on overnight stays during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. That beat last year’s record by nearly $1.5 million. The Tampa Bay region’s active tourism industry and growing number of hotels have contributed to steady climb in visitors over the last several years.

“The past 12 months have been Tampa Bay’s time to shine as a destination for visitors from across the country and around the world,” Visit Tampa Bay president and CEO Santiago Corrada said in a statement. “We’re seeing the results of that growth every day in terms of new builds, new jobs, and new opportunities.”

Over the last year, Hillsborough County’s hotel occupancy was at about 75 percent, according to Visit Tampa Bay. Hotel room demand grew by 4 percent. The county’s market research also showed more people in cities such as New York, Chicago and Toronto are aware of Tampa Bay as a destination.

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During the previous fiscal year, the county added more than 1,000 new hotel rooms, according to STR, a company that analyzes tourism numbers. Visit Tampa Bay expects up to 2,000 to be added by 2022.

Florida counties use the bed tax as a metric to measure a local tourism industry’s overall success. It’s a 5 or 6 percent tax added to the price of overnight stays in hotels or through room-sharing apps such as Airbnb.

Hillsborough County started collecting at 6 percent for the first time in August. September’s monthly total was up more than 25 percent from the previous year, including $400,000 in additional funds due to the recent tax hike.

The money is used to market the county as a destination, but also pays for county projects that contribute to tourism.

Pinellas County also collects a 6 percent tax on overnight stays. Visit St. Pete/Clearwater says its on track to beat its record, collecting more than $60 million in bed tax revenue this fiscal year, but September’s numbers are still being finalized.