Alachua County’s bed tax revenue surpassed $8 million for the first time during the 2023 fiscal year, climbing half a million dollars and indicating strong local tourism.
“If we go back to our fiscal year 2017, we were at $4.8 million, so just having an eight in front of our total collections is something that we’re thrilled to see,” said Jessica Hurov, Alachua County’s tourism development director.
The funds come from a 5% tourism or bed tax on overnight stays at hotels, motels, bed and breakfast locations and Airbnbs along with other short-term rentals. In total, overnight visitors spent $164 million in paid lodgings during the past fiscal year, which ran from Oct. 1, 2022, to Sept. 30, 2023.
Hurov said the majority of visitors came from within Florida—with Tampa, Orlando, Miami and Jacksonville representing 56% of total visitors. Hurov said Gainesville, with lodging, restaurants and shopping right off I-75, is also well positioned to get overnight stays from tourists heading to South Florida beaches.
UF remains the largest draw with Celebration Pointe and Butler Plaza in second, Hurov said. Gatornationals also makes an impact, with March bringing in the most bed tax dollars.
“It’s the day-to-day work of everyone within the industry that is a credit for this industry growth,” Hurov said, referencing sports organizers, hotel managers, restaurants and guest services personnel.
Hurov said Alachua County tourists blend in. They’re not necessarily toting cameras and beach towels down University Avenue. Plus, a lot of overnight stays for UF consist of business instead of pleasure. She said UF draws people in for conferences and many hotels also host midweek conferences for businesses.
In October, UF’s Loss Prevention Research Council held its 19th annual Impact Conference with just over 470 attendees from across the nation.
Hurov said small and large businesses across the county feel the benefits of the visitors. Visitor spending, she said, represents 26% of all spending activity in the county.
The county also reinvests those bed tax dollars into community organizations and events. For the past year, the county used $2.18 million to fund around 30 organizations. Hurov added that a large chunk of the bed tax is going to pay off the county’s loan for its new sports and events center at Celebration Pointe.