1. Business

Hillsborough's record hotel revenue makes it 'high-impact' tourism destination

Published Mar. 12, 2018

TAMPA — Hillsborough County generated more than $600 million in hotel revenue last year, making it one of just nine counties to pass the threshold for becoming a "high-impact" tourism destination in Florida.

With the designation, the county is now allowed to raise the tax on overnight stays from 5 percent to 6 percent.

"We haven't added Harry Potter over here, we haven't added Star Wars, and we haven't built any beaches that I'm aware of," Santiago Corrado, president and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay, said in announcing the news on Monday. "Yet, we were able to accomplish this substantial growth."

The county generated about $644 million in taxable hotel revenue last year — or about $700 million before taxes.

That sent bed-tax revenue past Visit Tampa Bay's $30 million goal at $32.3 million — an 8 percent increase compared to 2016. Pinellas County beat the same threshold in 2014.

Read more:Tampa Bay is enjoying a hotel boom. Could a five-star be coming?

Corrado said Hillsborough boasted record-breaking hotel stay numbers nearly every month of 2017. January, especially, when the College National Football Championship drew thousands of Clemson and Alabama fans to Tampa. Hotel revenue was up 36 percent that month compared to January of 2016.

Previous coverage: Water Street Tampa's new 519-room hotel expected to help Tampa pursue more upscale conventions

April and June did not break any records, but Corrado said they were still steady months. Each had only a small percentage dip in hotel revenue compared to 2016.

The consistent growth comes ahead of the areas first hotel boom since the 1990s — like an anticipated 500 rooms tied to the planned Water Street Tampa development on the edge of downtown.

Lou Plasencia, CEO of Tampa's The Plasencia Group hotel sales and consulting firm, said the demand for the new rooms is there — and the Water Street development will only help it grow.

"The community has also developed on its own," Plasencia said. "Hillsborough has become a very attractive, walkable area. You may not have beaches, but you have a downtown that really matured."

Visit Tampa Bay set the goal to surpass $30 million in collected bed tax money five years ago.

STR, Inc., which tracks hotel market data, estimates revenue per available room in Tampa Bay grew 30 percent, compared to 18 percent for the entire state, in that time period.

The other counties considered "high-impact destinations" outside of Tampa Bay are:

Miami-Dade, Volusia, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, and Broward counties.

Tampa has focused its pull on large-scale events and conventions, while also promoting its pedestrian-focused Riverwalk and burgeoning speciality bar and restaurant scene.

"My firm works all over the country," Plasencia said. "It's nice to see it coming together in our own community. It's about time."

Contact Sara DiNatale at Follow @sara_dinatale.


  1. Duke Energy Co. workers are competing in a line worker competition in Kansas this week. | [Courtesy of Duke Energy Florida] Duke Energy Florida
    Four Duke Energy Florida competitors are from Tampa Bay, as well as two coaches.
  2. Alexandra Toigo, 32 and Sabrina Pourghassem, 23, pose for a photo at Hofbrauhaus St. Petersburg holding their signature beer mugs during Oktoberfest 2018. "LUIS SANTANA  |  TIMES"  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The beer hall’s property owners filed a lawsuit saying the restaurant missed its rent starting in August.
  3. Port Tampa Bay on Tuesday agreed to sell a half-acre it owns near the Florida Aquarium for $4.7 million to Streams Capital of Tampa, which is looking at building a 33-story condominium and hotel tower. RICHARD DANIELSON | Times
    The buyer, Streams Capital of Tampa, is looking at building a 33-story tower with a hotel, condominiums and retail.
  4. [RON BORRESEN  |  Times].
    The deadline is Friday to submit your employer’s name for consideration.
  5. The developers of The Heights say they have reached an agreement with Marriott International to include a 153-room Marriott Moxy Hotel on the first seven floors of a 25-story apartment tower planned on the block two blocks east of the Armature Works. [Courtesy of Tampa Heights] The Heights District
    Plans call for a 153-room hotel that will occupy the first seven floors within a new, mixed-use, 25-story tower.
  6. Judge Caryl E. Delano, chief judge of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the middle district of Florida Caryl E. Delano
    Caryl E. Delano will serve four years as chief judge of one of the nation’s busiest bankruptcy courts.
  7. A page from the Medicare Handbook focuses on Medicare Advantage plans, which have become increasingly popular in recent years. Medicare's open enrollment period for 2020 begins Oct. 15 and lasts through Dec. 7. PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS  |  AP
    New benefits are giving an extra boost to Medicare Advantage, the already popular alternative to traditional Medicare.
  8. A citrus grove in eastern Hillsborough County. [Times (2017)]
    The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture is predicting a 3.3 percent increase for the struggling industry.
  9. Gas prices may go up as much as 5 cents this week, AAA, The Auto Club Group, said. Pictured is a man filling up at a gas station in St. Petersburg in 2017. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times  (2017)] SHADD, DIRK  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Gas dropped 10 cents on average in Tampa Bay last week and 6 cents on average in Florida.
  10. Artist Danny Acosta completes re-lettering  of the Southernmost Point in the Continental U.S.A. marker in Key West after much of the paint was stripped off in Hurricane Irma in 2017. [Florida Keys News Bureau via the Associated Press]
    Less than 10 percent of U.S. counties are "vacation home'' counties.