|By Jerry W. Jackson, The Orlando Sentinel, Fla.|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Aug. 3, 2005 - June was a rainy month in the Orlando area, but that didn't dampen the area's ongoing tourism rebound.
Orange County's resort-tax collections for the month of June set another record, rising about 11.5 percent from the same month a year ago, Orange County Comptroller Martha Haynie reported Tuesday.
The 5 percent tax, mostly on hotel rooms and other short-term rentals, generated $10.9 million, about $1.1 million more than in June 2004.
Haynie said it was the highest amount ever collected for the month of June since the tax was enacted in the late 1970s, and the fifth straight month that collections have exceeded $10 million.
Cumulative collections since the county's fiscal year began Oct. 1 are nearing $95 million, up 11.6 percent from the same period a year ago. That keeps the tax on a record pace for the year.
Hotel operators said both leisure travel and business travel seem to be on the upswing, although bookings are still relatively near-term.
"In June, we picked up far more [bookings] than we anticipated," particularly in business meetings, said Peter Kacheris, hotel manager of the Orlando World Center Marriott Resort & Convention Center. "In July, we did the same thing."
Kacheris said Orlando theme parks have been "bursting at the seams," and companies nationwide seem to be doing better financially and are beginning to allow more employees to travel on business. "It's optimistic," Kacheris said of the outlook for the rest of the summer season in Central Florida.
Hotel operators throughout Florida have been watching closely for signs of a slowdown that might be attributed to last year's record hurricane season. So far that has not happened, Kacheris said, although the peak of the storm season is still some weeks away.
Only one hurricane has hit the state so far this season -- Dennis, which struck the Panhandle last month. In the Orlando area, last month was one of the hottest, driest Julys on record, while June was one of the wettest.
The Orlando area, with more than 100,000 hotel rooms, is second only to Las Vegas in the number of rooms nationwide. The Orange County Convention Center also is the nation's second-largest convention center, behind Chicago's McCormick Place. The combination of leisure and business travelers to the Orlando area makes the region the top visitor destination in the country.
Orange County's resort tax primarily pays for the center's expansion and for tourism promotions through the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau, which targets both vacation and business travelers.
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