Harry Potter works magic on tourist development tax

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Harry Potter has worked its magic on the county’s tourist development tax, pushing the collections up dramatically from a year ago.

Orange County said it collected $13.2 million for July from the tax, which is charged on short-term rentals, mostly hotel and motel rooms. The collections increased 20.4 from July 2009, resulting in an extra $2.2 million for the county coffers.

The good fortune was enough to have County Comptroller Martha Haynie declaring her excitement over the tax report, which represents the sixth straight month of year-over-year improvements from 2009.

“Congratulations to Universal Studios for bringing us the real magic of Harry Potter, and to our entire tourism industry for its resilience,” Haynie said.

Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter held its grand opening on June 18, after weeks of soft opening previews. But July was the first full month that benefitted from the hordes of Muggles flocking to the attraction.

For the first ten months of the county’s fiscal year, the tourist tax generated $126.3 million, an increase of 2.4 percent compared with the same period a year ago.