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Josue Valde and Jens Hoffman use binoculars to gauge the current and decide when and where it will be safe to surf after hurricane Dorian. Wednesday, September 04, 2019. (Sarah Espedido / Orlando Sentinel)
Josue Valde and Jens Hoffman use binoculars to gauge the current and decide when and where it will be safe to surf after hurricane Dorian. Wednesday, September 04, 2019. (Sarah Espedido / Orlando Sentinel) (Sarah Espedido / Orlando Sentine/Orlando Sentinel)

Hurricane Dorian hit Orange County’s tourism economy in September as the hotel tax revenue fell nearly 8% compared with last September, according to figures released Tuesday.

The 6% tax on short-term stays brought in about $17.8 million in September, 7.6% less than what was collected in the same month a year ago.

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“Thankfully, Orange County didn’t take a direct hit from Hurricane Dorian," Orange County Comptroller Phil Diamond said in a news release. “However, (the tourist development tax) took a direct hit from the hurricane when visitors canceled trips."

Hurricane Dorian veered, missing Florida. However, theme parks, the Orlando International Airport and other tourist destinations were affected and the waiting game to see where it would hit. Social media showed light crowds at the theme parks, an indication that travelers were changing plans instead of vacationing in Florida amid the possibility of dangerous weather.

"We all look forward to the end of hurricane season on Nov. 30th,” Diamond said in his statement.

In September, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings warned the economic impact from the storm was “probably in the tens of millions of dollars."

Despite the hurricane, the county’s tax revenue overall was up for the fiscal year, generating about $284 million, an increase of nearly 3% year-over-year.

Officials say the hotel tax money helps to grow the tourism industry from bringing sporting events into town, expanding the Orange County Convention Center and funding Visit Orlando, which markets the region.

But there has been a push by some in the state to use the growing amount of bed tax funding in other ways that benefit local residents who share the roads and other public services with the flood of visitors that arrive every year.

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