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Pasco County to raise tourist tax

The red and orange sun sets over dark water
Kerry Sheridan
WUSF Public Media
Officials hope the tourism tax increase will encourage others to come to the Pasco area.

The increase passed unanimously during Tourist Development Council deliberations and unanimously again by county commissioners during a Tuesday public hearing.

The Pasco County Commission is moving forward with a one-percent increase in their tourist tax.

It passed unanimously during Tourist Development Council deliberations and unanimously again by county commissioners during a Tuesday public hearing.

The move increases the tourist tax from four to five percent.

The tax is imposed on overnight stays in Pasco County with a total of six months or less.

Florida’s Sports Coast Tourism Director Adam Thomas said the funds raised helps the county market itself to potential visitors worldwide.

“This is going to allow us to expand our marketing efforts and our marketing reach, that provides a stronger sheer voice in the marketplace when we're trying to attract key target audiences not only domestically, but now focus on our international visitors,” he said.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, the tax brought in over $3.6 million last year, up 36 percent from 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic led to decreased tourism worldwide.

Thomas said these increases in tourism rates are reflected in occupancy increases

“We’ve seen our occupancy increase close to 10% year-over-year,” he said. “...and our revenue stream has obviously grown year-over-year from the pandemic, it's grown around 60%.”

But the increase, Thomas said, was necessary when comparing Pasco County’s 4% rate to other nearby counties.

“Everyone -- other destinations like Citrus, Hernando, Polk, Sarasota, and Manatee counties were all at 5%, and Hillsborough and Pinellas were at 6%,” he said. “So we were competing at a much lower rate for visitors, and now this is actually going to help us compete and level out the playing field when it comes to marketing.”

Thomas adds that taxiing visitors also allows Pasco County households to save an average of $318 over the past three years on state, local, and federal taxes.

“We're not a tax burden on the citizens and residents of Pasco County, but we're actually a tax saver,” he said.

The tax started at 2% in 1990 and was raised to 4% in 2017.

“This is a long time coming for the increase of the occupancy fee,” Thomas said. “We actually in our industry like to call it a user fee, not necessarily a tax, because the visitors are actually coming in and utilizing and using our amenities and our hotels and our lodging establishments.”

And beyond marketing, Thomas said Florida Sports Coast would like to use some of the new funds raised to expand its sports facilities.

“Because of sports tourism, youth (and) amateur sport is our bread-and-butter when it comes to travel and being a viable vacation destination,” he said.

I am WUSF’s Rush Family Radio News Intern for spring 2022.
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