Despite the pandemic, Pinellas County tourism has never been stronger.

Visit St. Pete/Clearwater on Nov. 9 announced record year-end numbers for fiscal year 2021, which ended Sept. 30. Pinellas County Tourist Development Tax collections totaled $73.2 million, a 5.7% increase compared to the previous record-setting $62 million in 2019.

The tourist development tax is also known as the “bed tax.”

Fueling the success was the massive growth in what overnight visitors pay for a room, or Average Daily Rate (ADR), which averaged $158.07 — a 6.4% increase from $148.51 in 2019, according to STR, a hotel data tracking company.

Vacation rentals also played a pivotal role in the record year, demonstrating consistent growth in the emerging alternative accommodation market. According to KeyData, a vacation rental tracking company, the St. Pete/Clearwater vacation rental industry saw 17% growth in occupancy, 19.5% growth in ADR and 37.2% growth in Revenue Per Available Room (RevPAR) vs. 2019.

All of this despite COVID-19 pandemic concerns, no international visitors a sluggish meetings/group segment, and a red tide scare.

“This past year’s steady performance speaks volumes to our destination’s resiliency, as well as how our community came together to support the No. 1 employer in Pinellas County, tourism,” said Steve Hayes, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater president and chief executive. “As international borders reopen following an 18-month hiatus, we’re eager to welcome back a market that makes up 10-15% of visitors and see what the coming year brings.”

Visit St. Pete/Clearwater is continuing its marketing efforts in key out-of-state markets, like Chicago, Indianapolis, Nashville and Atlanta in an effort to build onto the destination’s success. The group will also be inviting back international visitors with a host of sales and marketing efforts now that key markets like Canada, the United Kingdom and Central Europe can enter the United States.