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ORLANDO-Based on room tax collections alone, Orange County is enjoying a banner tourist season. The county has collected an 11-month total of $113.27 million, surpassing the $111 million collected in all of 2004.

The all-time high was recorded even with below-average collections of $8 million in August, reports county comptroller Martha Haynie. Collections in August 2004 totaled $8.36 million. The county’s fiscal year ended Sept. 30 but September collection numbers won’t be completed for another month. The collections to date equate to an average $10.29 million per month.

The money is used to pay off debt on the $750-million expansion of the county’s four-million-sf convention center and for tourism industry promotions. The county’s 116,000 hotel and motel rooms levy a 5% tax on guest occupancies. The county started collecting the tax in 1979 when first-year revenue totaled $3.49 million.

Area hoteliers and tourism officials attribute the lower collections in August to tourists’ fears of last year’s four hurricanes that struck the state in September. Gas-price increases of 20% were also a factor, hospitality industry sources tell GlobeSt.com. They project September and October will be lackluster months on the collections screen.

The traditional winter season in Central Florida begins in November. The conventional hurricane season here ends Oct. 31.

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