ORLANDO-This Central Florida tourist destination historically is one of the last regions in the country to notice an economic softening, but declining August tourism collection numbers are giving hoteliers and meeting planners a bizarre jolt, even though October numbers appear to be back on track.

Collections were down 4.09% from July which showed a 5.41% rise over June. From February through June, tourism tax percentage gains were in the double digits and seemed headed for another record revenue year.

Hoteliers and tourist promoters attribute the August drop to a temporary soft construction market, higher gas prices and a convention dates switch from August to October by the 20,000-member Marine Manufacturers Association. Four of the six core Central Florida counties catering to tourism showed lower tax collections in August for the first time this year.

They were Orange County (Orlando) with $7.55 million in tourist tax collections for a minus 5.03% from July; Osceola, $2.04 million, down 0.90%; Volusia, $1.27 million, off 7.11%; and Seminole, $136,701, down 1.88%. The two counties showing gains were Brevard, $372,194, up 8.88%; and Lake, $39,250, up 0.97%.

Walt Disney World occupies a total 30,000 acres in Orange and Osceola counties. Arch rival Universal Orlando has 3,000 acres in Orange where Sea World is also located.

The monthly numbers on tourism tax collections, employment, electric meter usage and residential building permits are gathered by the Florida Department of Labor, Florida Department of Revenue, the US Bureau of the Census, individual utility companies and individual county building departments.

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