Convention taxes reach record high
By Risa Polansky
Miami-Dade County this summer saw record growth in Convention Development Tax revenue — a 26.3% upsurge between this and last August, the largest month-over-month growth in the past five years, according to the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.
"It shows that Greater Miami continues to be a hot tourist destination," said William Talbert III, president and CEO.
The county collects a 6% tax on the rental amount of hotel rooms, beach houses, recreational vehicles and other boarding spaces rented for six months or less, half of which is the Convention Development Tax used in part to support public convention centers, arenas and auditoriums.
Collections reached about $3 million in August of this year, up from $2.3 million last August.
In the first eight months of the calendar year, the county collected about $33.6 million in development taxes, 9.3% more than the $30.8 million collected the year before.
The bureau has been working "to create year-round travel and tourism in Miami," Mr. Talbert said, largely through a summer marketing push, and August's tax collection increase "shows that we in fact now have year-round travel and tourism."
Marketing efforts have included print, radio, television and being "much more aggressive out on the Internet," he said, reaching out to a "strong mix of both the vacationers and the meeting and convention delegates."
The bureau has directed its marketing efforts toward the "more sophisticated traveler," he said, and higher tax revenues come, in part, as a result of customers willing to pay more for a hotel stay here.
But marketing efforts are not the only reason August numbers were up, said Stuart Blumberg, head of the Greater Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association.
The association championed statewide legislation requiring Florida schools open no later than two weeks before Labor Day, he said, to elongate the summer tourism season and "give August back to the industry."
It came into effect this year, Mr. Blumberg said, and "it was an economic impact, which we thought it would be."
The county's Tourist Development Tax and Professional Sports Facilities Franchise Tax, which make up the remainder of the 6% collected from room rentals, yielded a 22.7% increase from last August, he said, and the tax tacked onto food and beverage sales in hotels rose 50.8% from last year.
Mr. Talbert agreed that the late school start boosted August's numbers. The bureau, he said, promotes in-state visits and last year saw 200,000 more Florida visitors than the year before. However, he said, local tourism still faces challenges, namely attracting international visitors.