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A Recipe for Success: How the Hotel/Motel Tax Sweetens Local Tourism

September 3, 2015  |  Jim Sprouse, Executive Director, Georgia Hotel & Lodging Association
Janet, my wife of over 35 years, loves to bake. From homemade bread to fudge, Janet brings joy to our family whenever our oven opens. Our mar­riage is a partnership that showcases what the other does well.
My work with hotels, Convention and Visitors Bu­reaus (CVB), and cities across Georgia parallels Ja­net’s baking experience because just as each recipe depends on the right ingredients, Georgia cities de­pend on the right infrastructure and policy tools to promote and strengthen our local economies.
Georgia’s hotels are partners in the economic health of Georgia’s cities. The hotel/motel tax provides a foundation for a partnership between Georgia’s lo­cal governments and Georgia’s lodging industry.
A Full Plate: How Hotel/Motel Tax Can Help Your Community
The hotel/motel tax is a unique policy tool that cre­ates a separate, locally determined tax that is imposed on hotel guests who lodge in Georgia’s communities.

The hotel/motel tax helps communities to:
  • Promote, attract and stimulate tourism and de­velop conventions.
  • Fund, support, acquire and construct facilities that promote tourism.
A 2010 informational paper produced by the Inter­national Society of Hotel Association Executives Lodg­ing Tax Task Force stated: “The concept of imposing a lodging tax on the overnight guest staying at a lodging property was to have the traveler pay part of the cost of attracting them to the area to stay overnight, and for funding services uniquely for travelers.”
Best practices for use involve municipalities asking questions such as:
  • What tourism activities does my municipality want to promote or attract?
  • Will the tourism activity put more “heads in beds”?
  • Are hotel/motel tax funds being used to market the local destination?
Below are some helpful suggestions to help your municipality effectively market your destination.
Put It In Writing. Hotel/motel tax expenditures can only be made when a written agreement is in place. A clearly defined, written agreement is essential to achieving the hotel/motel tax’s objective: increas­ing the number of tourists and business travelers visit­ing your community.
Adopt A Budget. When a local government impos­es a hotel/motel tax, the local government is required to create a budget that clearly states the hotel/motel tax expenditure. Local governments are required to include audited financial statements detailing how the local government complied with the expenditure requirements.
Work Closely With Your CVB. Local govern­ments have an amazing tool to promote their destina­tion in Convention and Visitors Bureaus. Hold monthly or quarterly meetings with your CVB to discuss how to best encourage tourism growth, showcase your community and grow the local economy. The Georgia Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus is an excellent resource to learn how other Georgia com­munities use their hotel/motel tax to increase local tourism.
Partner With Hotels To Help Promote Local Tourism. Effective use of local hotel/motel tax al­lows local communities to put plans into place that will yield new tourism business for years to come. Hotel professionals are skilled at attracting out-of-town guests and can serve as a tremendous resource to help shape and craft hotel/motel tax expenditures that bring travelers to your city. Consult with them and involve them in the process so you can tap into their expertise.

From Austell to Alma to LaGrange to Lyons, Geor­gia’s unique cities use the hotel/motel tax to promote local tourism. The hotel/motel tax helps cities across Georgia grow, and that’s a pretty sweet recipe for suc­cess.
Jim Sprouse, CAE, is Executive Director of the Georgia Hotel & Lodging Association, a statewide trade group comprised of lodging facilities and sup­pliers. Jim serves on the board of two Convention and Visitors Bureaus within the state and on the board of the Cecil B. Day School of Hospitality Ad­ministration at Georgia State University.
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