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Sarasota County Commission approves tourism 'bed tax' increase

Red lifeguard stand on a beach. People sit and walk on the beach behind it.
Daylina Miller
WUSF Public Media
The tax money produced is used to pay for various elements of the local tourism industry such as maintenance of beaches like Siesta Key.

The 2021 fiscal year saw more than $31 million collected from hotels and short-term vacation rentals.

The Sarasota County Commission on Tuesday voted to raise the county’s tourism development tax from 5 to 6 percent.

Also known as a bed tax, the levy pays for such things as beach maintenance, improvements to recreational facilities, new capital projects, and tourism promotion.

The tourism development tax is charged to those who stay at hotels and other short-term vacation rentals.

Sarasota County was allowed to increase the tax after the Florida Department of Revenuecertified it as a high-impact tourism county earlier this year. The designation means the county exceeded the state threshold of $600 million in bed tax collections by the end of last year.

The county’s Tourism Development Council, and Visit Sarasota County, a non-profit corporation that promotes tourism, both recommended the increase.

Erin Duggan, Vice President of Visit Sarasota County, said the tax money helps provide community amenities for both tourists and residents alike.

"Things like the spring training facility for both the Baltimore Orioles and for the Atlanta Braves, grants given to different arts groups, Nathan Benderson Park, which is a fabulous multi-use facility, that also get a piece of tourist development tax."

A portion of the money is also directed to Visit Sarasota County to promote the region as a tourism destination.

The county will begin collecting the additional tax on Oct. 1, the start of its fiscal year.

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