|By Sara K. Clarke, The Orlando Sentinel,
Fla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
February 3, 2010 --Orange County's hotel-tax collections improved a bit in December, breaking an 18-month-old streak of consecutive year-over-year declines.
The county said Tuesday it collected $12.4 million from hotels and other short-term rentals in December, about 0.3 percent more than it collected in December 2008. That slight increase ended a series of monthly declines that has plagued the county's tax collections since mid-2008.
Orange County Comptroller Martha Haynie said the positive numbers were "a welcome sight."
"It's hard to call three-tenths of a percent an increase, but it is an increase," Haynie said. "Having it be up a little bit is a nice sign."
But don't pop the cork on the champagne just yet.
The county still lags its previous fiscal year's collections. Through the first three months of fiscal 2010, the county collected $34.8 million, or about $2.1 million less than what it collected during the same period a year earlier.
The extended slump in collections of the county's "resort tax" has threatened the financing of big civic-building projects planned for downtown Orlando, including the new performing arts center and the Citrus Bowl renovations.
Still, the small increase was another indication that Orlando's hotel market may have closed out the year on an upbeat note. Smith Travel Research reported last month that area hotels, excluding those at Walt Disney World, filled more than 60 percent of their rooms on average in December, down only 2 percent from December 2008.
"Frankly, it's a feel-good story that gives the industry a sense of hope," said Richard Maladecki, president of the Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association. "Although I would not call this a trend."
Sara K. Clarke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-420-5664.
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