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ORLANDO-Despite claims by some hoteliers that occupancy is improving, tourists and guests at the area’s 113,000 hotel and motel rooms appear to be paying less for rooms, reducing the monthly 5% tax collections to the county, says Orange County comptroller Martha O. Haynie.

July’s collections totaled $7.67 million, down from $8 million in June and below collections from July 2002 through February 2003.

“While the percentage decline in collections for July was only 1%, it was our sixth consecutive monthly decline in collections, when compared to the same month last year,” Haynie says. “The discounting of room rates continues to hurt collections.”

The monthly tax collection numbers are watched closely by hotel developers and investors as a barometer of the area’s industry health. A large part of the collections is used to pay down debt on the $750 million, one-million-sf expansion of the four-million-sf Orange County Convention Center.

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