FL - Tourism down? Decline of visitors to Volusia marks 5 straight months
A red-hot visitor influx at the World’s Most Famous Beach over the past two summers continued to cool in July.
Typically a peak month for beachgoers against the backdrop of the July 4th holiday weekend, it marked the fifth consecutive month of declining tourism numbers countywide.
In Volusia County, tourism tax collections from hotels and lodges, also known as bed taxes, were down 13.6% for the county's three tourism advertising authorities for July, the most recent figures available from the Revenue Division, compared with the same month a year ago.
Tourism officials, hoteliers and industry observers characterize the decline as the result of multiple factors that range from evolving travel habits as the nation moves beyond the pandemic, economic uncertainty, the impact of back-to-back tropical storms as well as the publicity generated by polarizing political issues that have put Florida in the national spotlight.
In Volusia, tourism declines started in March
In Volusia County, it’s the fifth straight month of declines in a trend that started with a modest 0.94% dip in overall collections in March, followed by year-over-year downturns of 8.89% in April, 5.8% in May and 11.5% in June, according to county records.
During that same period, collections for the Halifax Area Advertising Authority that encompasses the core beachside tourist areas of Daytona Beach were down by 2.32% in March, 11.1% in April, 7.58% in May, 16.1% in June and 16.3% in July.
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For the first 10 months of the fiscal year that started on Oct. 1, countywide collections are down 3.3% compared with the same period a year ago, with Halifax down by 4.93%.
For perspective, the bar is set exceptionally high to match the booming post-COVID visitor influx of the past two summers.
For the fiscal year that concluded on Sept. 30, 2022, record-high overall tourism bed-tax collections of $33.7 million countywide were more than 20% higher than the previous year, which also set a record.
The county collects a 6 percent tourism tax on hotels and lodges with half of the revenues going to fund the county-run Ocean Center convention complex in Daytona Beach. The other half goes to the county’s three tourism ad authorities to market their respective areas — the Daytona Beach/Halifax area, Southeast Volusia and West Volusia — as tourist and special event destinations.
The latest July bed tax figures also eclipse collection totals for the same month in pre-COVID 2019.
In that month, overall collections were $2.8 million, compared with $3.3 million in July 2023, representing a 20% increase.
“I don’t think it’s a decline,” said Bob Davis, president of the Lodging & Hospitality Association of Volusia County, of the recent figures. “We had a grand slam summer last year, people were finished with COVID, they wanted to come out, not only to Daytona Beach, but all over Florida. We all had record seasons.