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ORLANDO-A signal that the area’s hospitality industry may be turning around comes today in new hotel room tax collection numbers posted by Orange County comptroller Martha O. Haynie.

After two years of sliding revenue, the county’s 120,000 hotel and motel rooms generated a total $93.3 million from the 5% room tax collected for the government’s fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.

The 2003 volume topped the $91.6 million in 2002 but was still below the $104.8 million in 2001 and the record $108.2 million collected in 2000, a year before the tragic Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist strikes in New York and Washington, DC that crimped tourism and crippled the hospitality sector.

Collections in the final month of September totaled $6.2 million, 7.6% higher than the $5.8 million in September 2002. But the 6.2 million was the lowest collection amount of the year. The highest collection period occurred in March with revenue of $9.9 million.

Haynie was pleased with this year’s performance. “It’s nice to see us end the year on a stronger note with collections during August and September exceeding collections for those same two months last year,” she says. “What’s also encouraging is that collections for this fiscal year exceeded collections for last fiscal year by $1.7 million, or roughly 2%, reversing a two-year trend where annual collections have declined.”

Orange County started collecting the room tax in 1979 when first-year revenue totaled $3.5 million. The annual collection volume increased for the next 21 years until it suffered its first decline in 2001, county collection records show.

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