TAMPA — Spring break meant spring bucks for the region’s hospitality industry.
The tourism promotion agencies for both Hillsborough and Pinellas counties reported record-setting tourist tax collections for the month of March.
In Hillsborough, it marked a third consecutive month of new benchmarks.
Since Hillsborough County began assessing the state-allowed maximum tourist tax rate of 6 percent in fall 2019, its peak month had been $4.9 million for the receipts collected in February 2020 just before the full onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
That has now changed for each of the first three months of 2022. Tourist tax collections reported by Visit Tampa Bay topped $5 million in February, $6 million in March and $7 million for April. The numbers are reported one month in arrears so the record income for April reflects the taxes collected in March.
“The rebound is more than just a rebound. It’s strong,” said Ron Barton, Hillsborough County’s assistant county administrator for economic prosperity.
Santiago C. Corrada, president and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay, the tourism agency in Hillsborough County, said the numbers “are a direct reflection of the determination of our partners, stakeholders, and community that strive to achieve significant economic impact in Tampa Bay. To pass the $5 million threshold, then the $6 million and now to reach $7 million is an incredible achievement.”
It’s a similar boom in Pinellas County where monthly tourist tax collections surpassed $13 million for the first time in March. Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, the county’s tourism promotion agency, also highlighted the double-digit increases over 2021 in average daily room rates of $268.77, up 37.4 percent, and revenue per available room of $226.26, up nearly 40 percent. The hotels reported revenue of $156.8 million, a 43 percent over 2021.
Hillsborough’s hotels also saw huge revenue jumps and surpassed $300 million for the second quarter of the fiscal year. The county total could top $1 billion by the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, Corrada said.
The occupancy rates of hotels on both sides of the bay also beat the statewide average of 81 percent for March. In Pinellas, the number of occupied rooms was 84.2 percent and in Hillsborough it was 85.7 percent.
Bob Morrison Jr., executive director of Hillsborough County Hotel & Motel Association, noted past surveys show visitor spending equates to just 30 cents of every dollar going toward hotel accommodations. Up to 70 cents of every dollar is spent on restaurants, attractions, retailing and transportation.
“All of a sudden we’re not just talking about hotels being the winner, if you will, it really is a communitywide impact,” Morrison said.
Temple Terrace Mayor Andy Ross agreed.
“This truly touches every corner of the county,” Ross said. “When downtown Tampa succeeds, we all succeed.”