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Brevard’s hotel tax revenue in pandemic wound up better than anticipated

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Space Coast Office of Tourism Executive Director Peter Cranis (Photo: PROVIDED PHOTO)

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Collections from Brevard County’s tourist development tax on hotel rooms topped $13 million for the budget year that ended Sept. 30.

While down nearly $3 million from the previous budget year, the total was higher than what Space Coast Office of Tourism Executive Director Peter Cranis feared it might be after the coronavirus pandemic hit and tourism took a nosedive.

“I can’t say that I’m pleased with these final results,” Cranis said in releasing the numbers. “Any time you turn in a performance that is in the negative, it is difficult to be happy. But, considering everything we’ve been through, I’d say I’m a bit relieved that we did as well as we did.”

The county’s 5% tourist development tax on hotel rooms and other short-term rentals raised $13.07 million in the 2019-20 budget year, an 18.4% decline from the $16.02 million collected in the 2018-19 budget year. The hotel tax revenue is a widely followed economic indicator of how the tourism sector is performing.

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Those figures indicate that hotels, motels and other short-term rental accommodations like recreational-vehicle parks, campgrounds and condos had $261.4 million in revenue from their accommodations in the 2019-20 budget year. That’s down from $320.4 million in the 2018-19 budget year. Those figures do not include revenue from food, beverage and retail sales at hotels, which are not assessed the tourist development tax.

Revenue from the tax pays for the operations and programs of the Space Coast Office of Tourism.

The largest share of the hotel tax money — 47% — is targeted for promotion and advertising of Space Coast tourism in an effort to attract more tourists.

The rest of the money is allocated this way: 25% for beach improvement, 14% for capital facilities, 5% for the Brevard Zoo, 4% for cultural events, 3% for Space Coast Stadium and 2% for visitor information centers.

The final tax revenue numbers wound up about $2 million better than Cranis feared in March, when tourism was shut down by COVID-19. Around that time, Cranis lowered his estimate for the 2019-20 hotel tax collections from the pre-pandemic estimate of $16.6 million to $11 million before gradually raising his estimates as tourism started to recover.

“Other destinations like Orange and Osceola counties are hurting much more than us,” Cranis said.

Business travel to the Space Coast — including by government contractors and people connected with the space program — are helping local hotels fill their rooms, Cranis said.

But the continued shutdown of the cruise industry, including at Port Canaveral, has hurt, especially for hotels in the Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach area. Hotels in that area in 2018-19 represented 39.9% of all hotel tax collections. That figure fell to 36.6% in 2019-20, indicating

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