Orange County tourism tax dollar collections take slight dip in April compared to March

In March, county reported 1st increase in TDT collections since pandemic shutdowns

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – While the total number of monthly tax collections from hotel and resort stays in Orange County are higher than they were this time last year, the total number of tourism tax dollars collected in April was slightly lower than the number collected in March, according to the latest report from the Orange County Comptroller’s Office.

For the first time in a year, Orange County reported an increase in TDT money in March. April’s collections were released during a weekly coronavirus news briefing on Wednesday.

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According to Comptroller Phil Diamond’s office, the county collected $17,032,100 in tourism tax dollars for the month of April. While that’s about $600,000 less than the $17.6 million collected in March, it’s still a significant increase -- 2,040.5%, according to the comptroller’s office -- compared to the historically low TDT collections from April 2020, when the theme parks and much of the tourism industry as a whole saw monthslong shutdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic.

On a historic basis, April 2021′s collections were $8,854,300 or 34.2% less than April 2019, the last pre-pandemic April month, the comptroller’s office wrote in its monthly report. Diamond’s office said that amount is also less than any amount collected in any pre-pandemic April since 2013.

The chart below, provided by the comptroller’s office, offers a year-over-year look at TDT collections in Orange County dating back to the beginning of the 2018-19 Fiscal Year.

TDT dollars for April 2021. (WKMG)

While the chart shows a slow rebound in TDT dollars, it also shows collections are nowhere near where they were in pre-pandemic months. TDT dollars were above $25 million in April 2019 compared to the $17 million collected during the same period this year.

Still, county officials say they remain hopeful the tourism industry is bouncing back, especially now that the CDC has relaxed some of its COVID-19 recommendations on mask-wearing, social distancing and travel for those who are fully vaccinated.

“The chart starts fairly high back in 2019, it goes about flat through 2020 and then it drops, kind of like the Disney Tower of Terror, in April of last year, and now it’s heading back up. And, you know, looking at these numbers whether it’s a 97% drop, or a 2,000% increase, it seems like the ride that the tourist tax has been on over the past year could rival the rides of any of the roller coasters at any of our theme parks,” Diamond said Wednesday. “So looking ahead, between the very positive vaccination numbers, and the better news that we’re hearing about COVID infections, it’s clear that immediate future looks very promising.”

In the meantime, the county continues to use its TDT reserve dollars to meet funding obligations. According to the latest comptroller’s report, the county used $7.2 million of its reserve money in April. The majority of that money was used to make payments to Visit Orlando ($1.9 million), Arts and Cultural Affairs ($1.3 million) and the History Center ($775K), and $2.6 million was used to fund the Convention Center’s 30-day operating reserve, according to Diamond’s office. In total, the county has used $145.0 million in reserves since April of last year.

TDT collections are reported a month after the revenue period. May TDT numbers will be reported in early July.

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