ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — People are making more money as COVID cases continue to drop in Orange County and visitors are once again spending on trips to attractions in our area and it is expected to grow.
What You Need To Know
- Orange County tourist tax collections were up 184% in August from August 2020
- Businesses on International Drive confirm they're seeing more customers, too
- TDT dollars are still off from their peak of $284 million in 2019, comptroller says
- The county is on pace to collect about $175 million in tourist taxes in 2021
While the COVID-19 positivity rate has fallen steadily to 6%, tourist development tax collections in Orange County during August jumped 184% from a year ago.
According to businesses on or just off International Drive in Orlando, three types of clients — locals, hospitality industry employees and tourists — drive their overall success, and they are seeing more traffic.
Jennifer Baker has been managing the Player 1 Video Game Bar for a decade. In the past few months, some of what she calls the "regulars" are starting to come back.
“Definitely a lot more tourists, a lot more people from out of town and different countries as well," Baker said. "Actually, the service industry has been booming more so they have wanted to come cut loose and come out more after their shifts.”
From the early stages of the COVID pandemic in April 2020 to February 2021, tourist development tax collections took a hit. During spring break and summer 2021, funds started to rebound.
“It’s getting better," Orange County Comptroller Phil Diamond said. "It is nowhere what we did back in 2019, when the tourism economy was really strong.”
In 2019, Orange County collected $284 million in tourism tax dollars. In 2020, TDT collections dived to $167 million. Right now, 2021 is on pace to climb to about $175 million.
That increase likely will mean more people and more business at Baker’s bar.
“We are probably at 75% to where we are supposed to be for our 100%," Baker said. "We are getting there, almost there, not quite there yet, but it's going increasingly up since last year.”
On a good month, the county will generate $20 million-$25 million per month in TDT collections. In August, just more than $16 million came in.
“We still are feeling it (the drain because of the pandemic) because we are not back to where we were, and we are sure not where we want to be,” Diamond stressed.
No high scores are on the horizon just yet, but business on a key corridor for the tourism industry is charging back up.
“We are not closing early anymore," Baker said, still speaking from behind her face mask. "Steady business throughout the week to where I know and can expect to staff, where before I didn’t know if I could, so I think we are getting so close.”
For the past six months, it shows they are.
The county did report bringing in about $8 million less in August compared to July. But officials said August normally is a down month following July as students return to school and summer starts to come to a close.
Reporter Ashleigh Mills contributed to this story.