SARASOTA –– It’s the weekend owners of vacation rental properties have yearned for, especially when hotels remained open.
These owners learned yesterday, May 22, that their businesses were allowed to reopen just in time for the Memorial Day weekend after the state approved Sarasota County’s plan late Thursday afternoon.
A week ago, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order allowing short-term and vacation rentals to reopen but only after individual counties submitted a plan to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation and gained approval from that agency.
Shortly before 3 p.m. Thursday, as he was conducting a budget workshop with the county commissioners, County Administrator Jonathan Lewis received word that the state had approved the county’s plan.
That news was somewhat expected after the state had approved Charlotte County’s plan a day earlier and the two plans were somewhat similar.
Lewis and officials from Visit Sarasota had worked with counterparts along the Gulf coast from Charlotte to Pasco County to ensure similarity in plans.
Lewis had told commissioners on Wednesday that the counties acted together, all viewing it as a regional issue.
Virginia Haley, director of Visit Sarasota County, emphasized the importance of having these rental properties available again due to their closures impact on tourist development tax revenues.
“Vacation rentals represent almost 50 percent of our tourist tax revenue in Sarasota County, so they are a very important part of our tourism mix, especially along the beaches,” Haley said.
According to data recently released by Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates, revenues from the tourist development tax plunged, dropping from $3.6 million in February to $2.2 million in March, a decrease of 39 percent.
In a month to month comparison, the March 2020 revenues looked even worse. In March 2019, Ford-Coates reported that the county received $4.3 million, a decrease of 48 percent on the year-to-year comparison.
“I appreciate staff jumping on this,” Commissioner Nancy Detert said after Wednesday’s discussion.