The pandemic hangover never happened in Tampa Bay, where visitation numbers are breaking pre-pandemic records.
The numbers are in, and they confirm everything you’ve heard about Florida tourism’s impressive recovery from the pandemic.
In a year that could have been expected to be flat or sluggish, the exact opposite — record-breaking visitation — has occurred, and Tampa Bay’s numbers are emblematic of the rebound. In Hillsborough County, for example, the collection of tourism development taxes, also known as bed taxes — a key metric for measuring tourism’s economic impact — rose by 7.04% between 2020 and 2021.
Visit Tampa Bay, the destination marketing organization for Tampa and Hillsborough County, reports it collected $38.4 million in bed taxes during its latest fiscal year, which ran from October 2020 to September 2021. The agency adds that six of the fiscal year’s 12 months saw record-breaking levels of bed tax revenue.
September, normally a slow month for tourism in the region, was anything but. It marked the first time more than $3 million in bed taxes had been collected in a single month, and it eclipsed the previous record-breaking month, October 2019, by more than 17%.
The significance of these numbers is not lost on Tampa Bay’s tourism leaders.
“Tampa Bay’s tourism bounce-back is one for the books,” Visit Tampa Bay CEO Santiago Corrada states in a news release. “Collectively with our community stakeholders and partners, we have set a nationwide precedent for not letting a pandemic define us, but instead fuel us to push our community forward. I am looking forward to an exciting year ahead with new hotels, attractions, restaurants and developments solidifying Tampa Bay as Florida’s number-one destination.”
At more than $642.88 million, hotel revenues were down by 8.39% compared to fiscal year 2019; however, Visit Tampa Bay, in the release, states that increased hotel room inventory might be a factor: A spree of construction over the past few years has added more than 2,500 rooms, giving visitors more choice and forcing hotels to compete more on price.
Overall occupancy was up 13.15% compared to 2020 but down 16.25% when measured against 2019, but again, expanded inventory could be a factor.
Visit Tampa Bay says its 2022 fiscal year is already off to a hot start, with Hillsborough County hotel occupancy at 67% in October compared to 64% in 2019.