Oklahoma cities turning to tourism taxes for revenue

Monday, July 15th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Oklahoma cities are turning to tourism taxes to raise revenue.

The Oklahoma Hotel and Lodging Association reports that at least 25 Oklahoma cities impose nightly ``bed taxes'' on hotel residents. Revenues are used to promote tourism as well as non-tourism projects.

``It seems to be an easy way for cities to increase revenue,'' said Patti Colley, director of member services for the group. ``But it's not always the best way.''

The American Hotel and Lodging Association said reliance on bed taxes is increasing especially for non-tourism projects, such as sports stadium construction.

Colley said she is concerned that cities see out-of-town visitors as an easy tax target because they have no remedy at the ballot box.

``There is no reason they should pass a tax on hotels if it is just going to filling potholes,'' she said. ``The best reason for a bed tax is if it is used to benefit tourism.''

Edmond, El Reno, Guthrie, Norman and Oklahoma City have each passed a hotel tax ranging from 2 percent to 4 percent per night. El Reno charges $1 per night.

``We use it for our tourism industry,'' El Reno spokeswoman Keri Avant said. ``They also give small grants to events promoting overnight stays in El Reno.''

Avant said the city's sales tax collections have gone from $40,000 to $60,000 a year and have been a stimulus for tourism.

``We've seen our overnight stays increase about 11 percent,'' she said. ``I would say a lot of that is due to the tax because we reinvest it in promoting El Reno.''

Edmond's bed tax revenue is split between the tourism industry and the city. About 95 percent of the revenues go to the convention bureau, while the remainder goes to the city of Edmond.

``We use it to solicit convention business in and out of state,'' said Cathy Williams-White, director of the convention and visitors bureau in Edmond. ``We use it to market Edmond.''

But not every city has had success with the tax. Voters in Weatherford and Yukon have defeated measures during recent years.

Yukon City Manager Jim Crosby said he was disappointed by the result, saying that a hotel tax is ``very advantageous to tourism.''