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Good Intentions, But...

Moneyblog1After 9/11, Bill Marriott infamously called for the suspension of Hotel Room Taxes to help spur a resumption of travel in America. While a nice thought, saving five bucks on a room wasn't going to inspire anyone to travel that was too nervous to do so without the offer. What was needed was a more robust marketing and communications effort from local Destination Marketing Organizations...who depend on the revenues from Hotel Taxes to power their work. Thus, throttling the primary funding stream for most DMOs, even for a few months, would be counter productive to Bill's desire.

But, that's how it goes with Room Taxes. They are seen by many as a revenue stream that either isn't important or can be used for whatever a politician thinks won't pass muster if it came out of the General Fund. We once worked with a community whose Convention Center was hemorrhaging cash. I asked why they hadn't attempted to stanch the losses. "It's just Room Tax," one official said...to which I responded, "if that subsidy was coming out of the General Fund, you've had fixed it by now."

And, here's where you get to call me heartless. Texas Governor Greg Abbott has waived the hotel and motel occupancy tax for 30 days for the victims and first responders of Hurricane Harry. It's a nice token gesture that costs the politician nothing, is appreciated by a few...but will have the unintended consequence of handcuffing efforts of local DMOs to announce to the world that they're ready once again to welcome visitors and inspire consumers to return.

Aren't there other ways to offer a meaningful helping hand to victims and a heartfelt thank you to first responders?

Oh, wait. That would have to come out of the General Fund.

          
Bill Geist

Bill GeistBill Geist

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