COVID-19 slows tourism, tax dollars lost in Palm Beach County

Tourism downturn hits bed tax dollars, major renovation plan on hold
Posted at 7:21 PM, Apr 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-22 08:51:35-04

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Empty beaches, vacant hotels, and canceled flights. Palm Beach County's multi-billion dollar a year tourism industry is at a virtual standstill.

Crucial bed tax dollars usually come pouring into our economy down the escalator at Palm Beach International Airport.

Travelers are now replaced with parked planes, empty stairs, empty elevators, and a deserted terminal.

“When people are going to want to start traveling again, get on an airplane, stay in a hotel, those are all unknowns right now,” Palm Beach County Commissioner Hal Valeche told Contact 5.

For a snapshot into the potential damage, Contact 5 reviewed Bed-Tax collections from March and April of 2019, which amounted to $13.2-million in revenue according to the county’s Tourist Development Council.

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Last year alone, the 6% Bed Tax, which is collected from hotel and short-term rental stays, delivered $54-million. Those dollars are then divided up to promote Palm Beach County tourism. They’re used to restore beaches and infrastructure investments like the FITTEAM Ball Park of the Palm Beaches, the Palm Beach County Convention Center and Roger Dean Stadium.

Commissioner Valeche told Contact 5 exclusively that newly approved plans to renovate Roger Dean Stadium are now on hold and a debt service payment for the FITTEAM Ball Park of the Palm Beaches might need a lifeline.

“We’re going to tap into our reserves temporarily. Hopefully it’ll just be a loan and the Bed Tax money will come back at some point so we can replenish our reserves that we’re using to do that, it’s a problem,” Valeche said.

The exact loss of bed tax revenue is not yet known but a county tourism official told Contact 5 that the county is already focused of recovery plans.

Visit Florida recently launched a portal that tracks the impact COVID-19 is having on tourism in Florida. Click here to view the portal.