DADE CITY — Florida’s Sports Coast, the marketing moniker for Pasco County’s tourism efforts, wants to take its pitch to international travelers.
That idea got a shot in the arm this week when the Pasco County Commission unanimously approved an increase in their tourist tax from four percent to five percent, the highest a county Pasco’s size can go.
Adam Thomas, director of the Florida Sports Coast Destination Management Organization, thanked commissioners for their ongoing support and willingness to look at the increase. He said the tourism effort has been successful but the hope is that the additional funding will help with international efforts focused first on Europe. Tourists from that area have shown interest in Pasco, he said.
County Commissioner Mike Moore, who serves as chairperson of the Tourist Development Council, said that board had no issues with voted unanimously to support the increase in the tax, which is paid by people who stay in short-term accommodations.
The tax was first established at two percent in 1990 and increased to four percent in 2017 to allow for financing to build the Wiregrass Ranch Sports Campus in Wesley Chapel. That venue opened in 2020.
Dade City resident Kathy Lambert was the lone public speaker before the vote Tuesday. She said she is not a fan of the increase. She said she “would like to see some real Republicans up here that are not going to keep digging into the taxpayers’ wallets.” Lambert said it didn’t matter whether those taxpayers were local or from elsewhere.
Lambert said years ago she spoke against the tax when Saddlebrook Resort had concerns.
Moore said that the Saddlebrook representative on the tourist development board was in favor of the increase. He added that he had not heard anything negative from any of the hotel operators, who might be the most likely critics of the increase. Saddlebrook’s issues with the tourist tax were resolved long ago, he said.
Commission Chairperson Kathryn Starkey said she had heard “not a peep” of opposition and that she also supported the increase.
Last year, Pasco County brought in $3.6 million in tourist taxes.