To the editor:
The Ohio Hotel & Lodging Association, representing the industry in Delaware County and across the state, opposes a 3 percent lodging tax increase on the county’s March ballot. Pro-tax campaigners want revenue for projects such as “drainage, building improvements and restrooms” at the county’s fairgrounds. Events held there do need adequate facilities. But this far-reaching tax increase sacrifices long-term economic growth of the travel economy for a short-term quick fix that won’t address the causes for the fairgrounds’ current condition, or ensure their future viability.
The pro-tax campaign contends it “does not want to tax the hard-working citizens of Delaware County” and promises they “fund the fair’s needs and don’t charge the citizens a dime.” Of course, the reality is quite the opposite.
Lodging taxes do cost the communities where they are levied. Not only is there a direct impact on local citizens who may stay overnight in a lodging property – and family and friends who may visit them – but there is also a cost to the businesses of that community and the citizens they employ. Higher taxes are also a major consideration for companies when deciding whether to build new hotels.
Raising the bed tax by the proposed amount will make the county’s total tax at checkout 16 percent — higher than many areas of the state and the nation, and a competitive disadvantage with other nearby counties and Polaris-area hotels.
An often-used rationale by proponents of bed taxes is that travelers aren’t aware, don’t understand or won’t care about tax increases. However, a study by the U.S. Travel Association found that virtually half of all travelers will alter plans due to high travel taxes. Convention and visitors bureaus across Ohio receive calls from consumers checking on rates – a fact especially true with corporate travel, meeting planners, groups and events. High taxes also get leisure travelers’ attention at checkout, making them less likely to return.
Hotel visitors produce a tremendous additive effect to the local economy, spending additional dollars at restaurants, retail establishments, gas stations and many other businesses. Any action which inhibits economic development and healthy growth in the hotel market also affects every employee of those businesses.
The hotel industry supports alternative funding sources that are available and can provide a better, more sustainable stream of revenue for the facilities-related projects and maintenance at the fairgrounds. Our organization championed such alternatives during the legislative debate this year on the bill that allowed this measure on the ballot.
When lodging taxes are used for travel marketing, they produce additional business that generates more visits, more overnight stays and more revenue. Lodging taxes used for building expenses do not accomplish that aim. The Ohio Hotel & Lodging Association and Delaware County’s lodging properties value the fairgrounds and the events that it hosts. We support thoughtful and productive methods to address those needs. However, singling out our industry and making the total tax at checkout 16 percent is not the right option.
Ohio Hotel & Lodging Association