In 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Orange County’s theme parks and hotels experienced a severe decline in tourist traffic and as a result, a decline in Tourist Development Tax collections.
The Orange County Tourist Development Tax (TDT) is paid by visitors staying in hotels and short-term rentals with proceeds that are placed into a public bucket to be used in projects and initiatives that can help to draw more tourists back to the area.
Proceeds have been used to build and maintain the Orange County Convention Center, to fund Visit Orlando, and to fund venues like Dr. Phillip’s Performing Arts Center, Camping World Stadium, and the Amway Arena.
According to a release sent out last week, the county reached a point during the slowdown where excess reserves were necessary to cover all TDT obligations, and new expenses for the subsequent years were put on hold.
The Orange County Comptroller recommended that the spending pause be in place until reserves were replenished in the amount of $300 million and when annual TDT collections exceeded $300 million a year before the County could take on any new projects or activities requiring TDT funding.
Revenue collected in 2022 was $336 million and reserves are projected to reach $300 million by the Spring of 2023, so Orange County is now prepared to consider new projects or opportunities for TDT funding.
Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings has now called for the formation of a new citizen panel to provide input to the Board of County Commissioners and Tourist Development Council, on how to spend future funds.
The TDT is paid by tourists, and it is important that organizations representing our visitors be involved in the Task Force. Therefore, I am inviting our hospitality industry partners to participate.
The TDT Task Force will hold its first meeting on Wednesday, March 22, 2023, with a target of July 2023, to present a report or presentation to the Tourism Development Council and the Board of County Commissioners on its findings and observations.