Pensacola tourist tax up 23% from 2019, showing strong COVID rebound
Escambia County tourism has rebounded strongly after a 2020 full of closures related to COVID, damage from Hurricane Sally and staff shortages, reporting a 23% increase in the collection of tourist taxes compared to to 2019 with a head start on what could be an even more record 2022.
All short-term accommodation places like hotels, motels and Airbnbs collect a 5% stay tax for the Tourism Development Tax, a fund that goes to organizations like Visit Pensacola and Pensacola Sports, as well as to local agencies applying for funding for their tourism -events and related businesses.
In 2019, the TDT collection from October to September was $ 12.3 million, which fell to $ 9.7 million in 2020. The 2021 collection was $ 17.6 million.
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The most recent year’s collection is inflated in part due to a five-cent increase in the tax collected which went into effect in April, but the 23% year-over-year increase by report for 2019 does not include additional funds raised for part of 2021..
Since the fiscal year begins in October, there are already two months of TDT collection data for the year 2022. October and November collection data – only comparing the first four cents to provide a tally accurate year over year – show a 27% increase over fiscal 2021.
“It is strong, these are important figures”, declared Tuesday the president and general manager of Visit Pensacola, Darien Schaefer.
Schaefer said pent-up travel demand caused a huge influx of guests to hotels in April 2021, as the tourist “drag market” from areas like Louisiana, Georgia and Alabama came to stay when ‘they weren’t allowed to fly or ride cruise ships, for example. .
Data from the court registry shows that there are nearly 3,900 active accounts contributing to TDT collections last week, with 650 new registrations in 2021. By comparison, the number of new accounts was 350 in 2019 and 450 in 2020., but data from the Clerk’s Office does not clarify whether these new sites are hotels, short-term rentals, or other types of accommodation.
Another contributor to TDT’s high collections is that not only have many hotels damaged by Sally returned online to help boost inventory, most short-term rentals and hotels have increased their rates to combat demand and did not reduce them. down.
âA lot of people think the Pensacola area was very good value, which may mean undervalued compared to the rest of the Panhandle, so increasing those rates is really an adjustment that was overdue,â Schaefer said.
Ted Ent, CEO and chairman of Innisfree Hotels – the company that owns many Pensacola Beach hotels and restaurants – said it was too early to say whether 2022 will also be a record high, but bookings are high for the spring. .
âThis time of year is almost impossible to predict what the future pace of bookings will look likeâ¦ but we usually start to see very active bookings in February with people getting ready for spring break, which is our first push. In 2021, it hasn’t really slowed down at all after spring break, âEnt said.
Escambia County Commissioner Robert Bender, who also sits on the Tourism Development Board that oversees TDT spending, said additional funds raised this year have helped fund some projects such as upgrading beach facilities and the beach renovation, as well as the relatively easy hosting of the unexpected spectacle on Blue Angels Beach in November which would typically be held at Naval Air Station Pensacola.
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He said he expects this spring to be strong as the Pensacola Bay Bridge is in use again and much of the damage related to Sally has been restored.
âYou have Sally, you have COVID, you have the bridge, supply and personnel issues and even despite thatâ¦ the numbers are still very positive,â Schaefer said. “Things are on a very positive trend.”
Emma Kennedy can be reached at [email protected] or 850-480-6979.