Siesta Key on track again to top tourist tax collections

Thanks to its No. 1 beach ranking, Siesta Key is leading all locations in Sarasota County in the amount of tourist tax collected this year.

For the third year in a row, Siesta Key may best the city of Sarasota as the county location with the highest tourist tax collections, according to figures from the Sarasota County Tax Collector’s Office.

Through June, the latest month for which figures are available, Siesta Key had collected $2,847,785.13 in that tax revenue, or 31.25% of the total for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1.

By comparison, the city of Sarasota had contributed $2,815,654.83, or 30.90% of the tourist tax revenue.

For the 2010 fiscal year, Siesta Key accounted for 31.1% of the total collections, compared to 30.4% in the city of Sarasota, according to the Tax Collector’s Office.

Fortunately for the county this year, Siesta Key is not the only location benefiting from the No. 1 beach ranking bestowed upon it by Dr. Beach, aka Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, of Florida International University.

“So far, (we’re seeing) huge increases in everything,” said Virginia Haley, president of the Sarasota Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Haley said a national report by Smith Travel Research, which collects hotel occupancy data showing the average daily rate per available room, also has underscored the impact of the beach ranking. Although most of the hotels and resorts on the Key are not national chain franchises (and generally not well-reflected in that Smith report), Sarasota County still ranked fourth in its region in June. That region includes St. Petersburg, Naples, Fort Lauderdale and Fort Myers.

The increase in local revenue per available room, Haley said, was 19%, while the occupancy rate was up 13%.

“What that tells us,” she said, is the beach ranking “is good for Longboat, good for Lido.”

Haley also said the CVB was able to nab the Internet domain after learning Siesta was at the top of Dr. Beach’s 2011 list.

“We’ve seen amazing traffic coming through there,” Haley said.

Finally, when the CVB started a special advertising campaign in the Tampa area after July 4, Haley and her staff saw a 14% increase in the Web page views by Tampa residents.

Haley said the she eagerly is awaiting the July tourism tax figures from the Tax Collector’s Office. Liz Klaber, chief deputy tax collector, told the Observer those figures should be available by Sept. 10.

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