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On Short-Range Thinking

6a00d83451b69969e201bb09ce40c3970dIn the beginning...there was Room Tax. And it was good.

In most States, the initial imposition of the tax was actually supported by local hotel communities because the revenues were to be invested in tourism promotion. And then, tourism development crept into the lexicon.

But, what exactly is "tourism development? Is it buying a hook and ladder truck because your community is trying to land a multi-story hotel? Is it planting flowers in the Main Street median to make the destination more attractive? Is it to prop up a Library because they offer "cultural" experiences to visitors? Oh, I've heard 'em all.

Which is why what is happening in Florida is so disturbing (but, based on last year's experience, not surprising).

The House Tourism Sub-Committee has advanced a bill that would further expand the permitted use of Room Tax to infrastructure projects beyond the currently allowed Event Center and Beach Renourishment projects. This bill would open the door to a sensational number of abuses of the original intent of the law.

Oh, they'll "say" that the infrastructure project has to enhance tourism...but, most politicians can connect the dots to boldly claim that anything would enhance tourism (see the Library reference above).

Here's the thing, though. The more Room Tax that is diverted to build infrastructure, the less revenue available for marketing. The less money for marketing, the fewer visitors to use the infrastructure you're building.

It might be a fast fix to your infrastructure problems...but, do you risk crippling your visitor economy in the process (and the residents who have invested in your community) by reducing your investment in promoting your destination in the first place?

Sadly, it's a risk that many of today's politicians are too willing to make. Each and every day.


Bill Geist

Bill GeistBill Geist

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