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Tourist tax dollars hit peak
Nudists, athletes and other county visitors spent $68,748 in bed tax here last month.
By Chuin-Wei Yap, Times Staff Writer
Published February 29, 2008
The Paradise Lakes nudist resort in Lutz reported large bookings last month. The first quarter is regarded as nudism's peak season, said Toby Caroline of Paradise Lakes.
[Zach Boyden-Holmes | Times (2006)]
[Lance Aram Rothstein | Times (2003)]
The Saddlebrook Resort in Wesley Chapel hosted the Dick's Sporting Goods Tournament of Champions, the lacrosse national club championship, and the USTA Grand Slam Futures tennis tournament.
Pasco collected a record amount of tourist tax dollars in January, and if you believe anecdotal suggestions, sports and naked people are part of the explanation.
The $68,748 collected in January, a bellwether month in the tourism industry, was the largest take in the bed tax since the county started collecting such data in 1991.
Some of the tax money came from nudist resorts, of which Pasco has the most in Florida.
"We had a great month in January," said Chris Berry, who handles real estate for Caliente Resorts. "We were definitely booked solid, three months ahead. We had another big party in the middle of the month, and that was booked up almost to capacity.
"Part of what's driving the business is the hellacious winter up north. So many of them are from Massachusetts, Michigan, Canada, and they say it's been horrendous," Berry said.
"I was told New Year's Eve was the busiest in Pasco it's ever been," said Carolyn Hawkins, spokeswoman for the American Association of Nude Recreation. New Year's Eve takings would have been reported in January.
Other resorts like Lake Como and Paradise Lakes also reported bumper bookings last month. The first quarter is regarded as nudism's peak season, said Toby Caroline of Paradise Lakes.
Sports also played a role in tourist tax collections.
"Keep in mind we added the Dick's Sporting Goods Tournament of Champions - the lacrosse national club championship - which tallied close to 700 room nights for the county, including 136 for Saddlebrook Resorts," said Eric Keaton, who handles Pasco's tourism matters.
Saddlebrook was the host hotel for the Dick's tourney. In January, Saddlebrook and Saint Leo University also hosted the USTA Grand Slam Futures tennis tournament, Keaton said.
Pasco tourism isn't breaking step with the rest of the Sunshine State when it comes to the longer term. Florida saw the first year-to-year decline in tourists since 2001 last year.
Pasco reported a 4 percent dip in tourist revenue between 2006 and 2007, but the last three months of 2007 saw a surge while the rest of Florida staggered. And then January broke county records.
Hotels are betting on the tourism trend here. Last year, Marriott opened a Residence Inn at the Suncoast Parkway and State Road 54. And earlier this month, a new Hampton Inn & Suites opened at SR 56 and Interstate 75.