Tourism tax dollars on the rise, but new variant, travel rules could impact progress

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Central Florida tourism leaders are waiting to see how the new COVID-19 omicron variant and President Joe Biden’s new travel rules will impact the local economy.

Orange County leaders say tourist development tax collections have steadily increased, but the new variant could impact that progress.

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“It’s like two steps forward, one step back,” Comptroller Phil Diamond said.

October’s numbers for tourism tax dollars are still way behind pre-pandemic levels, even after hitting an encouraging $21 million. You have to go back to 2017 to find an October with tourist development taxes (TDT) as low as 2021.

READ: Orlando tourism not impacted by Omicron variant so far, officials say

However, the continuing story of COVID-19 is adding another twist.

“When COVID goes up, tourist taxes go down and when COVID goes down, tourist taxes go up,” Diamond said.

READ: Orlando mayor dedicates Friday as Walt Disney World Day

TDT comes from anywhere people sleep — from hotels and campgrounds to AirBnBs.

Diamond said it’s now another wait-and-see situation on how the latest travel restrictions will impact the numbers again.

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Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.