Hoteliers optimistic about winter tourism

Summer was tough and leads for places to stay in January-March fell from 326 last year to 196 this year. The tourist development tax, a 5 percent levy also known as the bed tax generated by short-term rentals, fell in Sarasota County by 32 percent in September and 20 percent in August. In Manatee County, bed tax collections fell by 18 percent in September but increased 1.3 percent in August.

This December, Paul Parr has two groups staying at his Siesta Key vacation rentals — a Chicago-based youth soccer team that comes every year and a party of some return visitors staying through New Year’s Eve.

Those bookings will keep his business afloat for what he thinks would be an otherwise slow month. January is also looking like it will be quiet. But his rooms are pretty full in February and March, and April should be good because of returning visitors who bring their families here for spring break.

Parr said he’s feeling optimistic about what’s to come next year, even after enduring months of red tide, but if it weren’t for those ahead-of-time bookings, he’s certain that December would be pretty much dead.

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