Hillsborough County brings in record-breaking bed tax money

Tourism in the Tampa Bay area is taking off.  More people are staying in hotels, and spending money in Hillsborough County.

"Fish, suntan, relax, drink, eat; all the good stuff," said Michael Gonello from Massachusetts.

Thousands of visitors travel to the Bay Area each year.

"We took the trolley, went to Ybor City, and we're gonna do the Riverwalk,” Randy Kirby from Michigan said. 

“I just wanted to enjoy the sunshine and eat some seafood," said Bill Garrett, visiting from Alabama.

They treat their taste buds, explore outdoors, and pump money into our local economy.

"So we’ve become like this place you gotta see, and we’ve really been Florida’s hidden treasure for a long, long time, but that’s not the case anymore," said the CEO and president of Visit Tampa Bay, Santiago Corrada.

In 2017, Hillsborough County brought in more than $644-million in taxable hotel revenue, producing a record-breaking $32.3-million in bed taxes.

The Visit Tampa Bay team credits laser-focused work selling and marketing the area, along with its more-than 800 partners to attract visitors.  Campaigns running in other states highlight Tampa’s art, culture and fun things to do.

Now the city has reached a milestone that makes Hillsborough a high-impact tourism county.

"It’s a big deal, I mean, only eight or nine counties in Florida have hit that over the history of the collection," Corrada said.

That record setting hotel spending also means visitors are buying meals at local eateries, going shopping, and spending cash on entertainment.  It’s a huge economic engine that creates jobs and pushes the Bay Area to keep growing.       

"We’re talking about 22-million plus visitors spending over $6-billion, so we have really become a must-see destination, a must-visit destination and we couldn’t be happier about that," added Corrada.

Reaching the $600-million mark for taxable hotel revenue in a single calendar year, could mean more money coming directly to the county.  The Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners now has the option to raise the bed tax from 5 percent to 6 percent.