1. Business

Despite Irma, Pinellas County sees 10 percent jump from tourism bed tax

Pinellas County collected $3.2 million in the tourism development tax in September, about a 10 percent increase from last year, according to figures released Monday by Visit St. Pete/Clearwater. So far this year, the county has collected a record $54.7 million.

Officials worried about the lingering effects of Hurricane Irma in September to Florida's tourism industry, which represents more than 100,000 jobs in the county. However, the hotel industry seemed to benefit pre-storm from the influx of southern Floridians escaping to the bay, tourists relocating from beach-front hotels along the coast and residents leaving mandatory evacuation zones.

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And after the storm passed, people without electricity at home filled into the remaining open vacancies.

From Sept. 6 through Sept. 9, hotel occupancy throughout Tampa Bay dropped 8 percent while the average daily rate increased 1 percent to $102.10 compared to the same period last year, according to hospitality research firm STR.

However, the steady growth in the six percent bed tax indicates that Irma's effects were not as significant as first projected, said David Downing, president and CEO of Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater, who points to the fast recovery after the storm and a "strong rest of the month."

"Business stabilized quickly after the emergency, and we didn't lose any major pieces of group business," he said.

Contact Tierra Smith at tsmith@ Follow @bytierrasmith.