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Central Florida Hotels Produce 28% Jump in Room Tax Compared to Same Month Last Year
By Jerry W. Jackson, The Orlando Sentinel, Fla.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News 

Apr. 3, 2004 - Higher attendance at the Orange County Convention Center helped fuel a record February for countywide resort-tax collections. 

Orange County Comptroller Martha Haynie said Friday that the $10.17 million raised by the tax on short-term rentals -- mostly hotels and motels -- was 28 percent greater than the same month a year ago. 

It was the highest dollar amount yet collected in February, Haynie said, and the second-highest percentage increase for any month since the county raised the tax to 5 cents on the dollar in 1995. 

Hotel operators said a strong showing at the newly expanded convention center played a role in the increase. 

"The convention center was a factor," said Ralph Schmitz, general manager of Renaissance Orlando Resort at SeaWorld, located near the center on International Drive. "When you double the size of the center, you expect greater attendance." 

The center, which added about 1 million square feet of exhibition space last fall, posted a record first quarter for attendance at trade shows and other events. Many of the attendees stay at the dozens of hotels that are within a two- or three-mile radius. 

Schmitz said the Renaissance Orlando Resort and other hotels also are benefiting from a rebound in leisure travel as well. "It's not complicated," Schmitz said. 

"March should be good, too." 

Cumulative resort-tax numbers since the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1 are running 13 percent above the same period a year ago, and 7.8 percent above projections. Money collected from the tax supports the convention center's expansion and helps finance tourism-industry promotions conducted through the convention-and-visitors bureau. 

Rich Maladecki, president of the Central Florida Hotel and Lodging Association, said the healthy February figures are another sign that tourism in the region continues to recover from recession and terrorism. 

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(c) 2004. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News. BUD, 


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