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Orange County's TDT revenue is down. Is it a pitfall or just a slump?

  Orange County Convention Center
Joe Mario Pedersen
90.7 WMFE News
Orange County Convention Center

Tourism in Central Florida is off to a slow start this year compared to last, according to the recent report of tourism development tax dollars, which is revenue generated from hotel stays and short-term rentals.

May tourism brought in a little over $26 million. The figure is a 6.7% decrease compared to May 2022. May’s revenue was even lower than the April collection, which was the first month to report a decrease after a 14-month record-breaking streak for TDT dollars, according to the Orange County comptroller.

Phil Diamond oversees the collection of TDT. He said the county’s 14-month record-breaking streak of TDT dollars was disrupted earlier this year and normal numbers were bound to return since the growth was largely caused by the pandemic.

“I think people got tired of being stuck in for years and not being able to travel. So I think a lot of people decided that they would travel, and they traveled. And that's what we saw last year,” Diamond said.

Other metrics show that numbers are returning to ground level after months of soaring. The hotel occupancy rate was also down by 2.5%. Over at the Orange County Convention Center, the number of events in May increased year over year, but the groups were smaller and had less overall attendance, the comptroller's office reported.

While the streak is over, Diamond says the $26 million is still a good number for the county and he expects the rest of the year to finish strong. The decrease, he said, isn't anything to be overly worried about.

“I've compared our tourist tax collections to a rollercoaster ride on the theme parks because there are some big highs and there are some big lows,” Diamond said.

During the pandemic, Orange County lost 97% of its taxes in one month when many businesses shut down, including Central Florida's tourism attractions. Diamond can't forget that sudden drop and said the current numbers are far from as bad as they once were.

"August and September are going to be a little bit slower. If we're down by 7%, and we're coming off a record year, those are not going to be bad numbers. Hopefully, it's nothing worse than that. Hopefully, it's a lot better than that," Diamond said.

VisitOrlando noted that citywide attendance is up by 24% and is expected to remain strong through the end of the year.

Originally from South Florida, Joe Mario came to Orlando to attend the University of Central Florida where he graduated with degrees in Radio & Television Production, Film, and Psychology. He worked several beats and covered multimedia at The Villages Daily Sun but returned to the City Beautiful as a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel where he covered crime, hurricanes, and viral news. Joe Mario has too many interests and not enough time but tries to focus on his love for strange stories in comic books and horror movies. When he's not writing he loves to run in his spare time.
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