Highland committee proposes lodging tax
Monterey, Va. –
Donna Bedwell took over as chairperson of the Highland Economic Development Authority’s Tourism Subcommittee just a few months ago. At the December EDA meeting the committee presented parts of a draft of the Tourism Strategic Plan. Ms. Bedwell talks about one of the main points of the plan – the lodging tax.
“A key component of the tourism plan will be the transient occupancy tax that we are recommending to the Supervisors,” said Ms. Bedwell. “The reason that we want this adopted is very simple, we needed an additional revenue stream to help us support some of the marketing efforts that the plan would like to put into place. I think, in the county, we have a lot of low hanging fruit. A lot of things that really are already tremendous assets within this county. As you know, a lot of times we say that Highland County is the best kept secret. Well we decided that we don’t want to be a secret anymore. We want to get the work out to people who would be interested in coming here and staying in our lodging and spending time in the county on a weekend or during the week and hopefully eventually become citizens of the county itself,” she said.
Ms. Bedwell discusses further details of the lodging tax.
“It’s a tax on the rooms that you lease out by the night for anything under a 30 day time period,” said Ms. Bedwell. “It can be adopted by ordinance by the Board of Supervisors if it’s up to 2 percent. That’s allowed by the State of Virginia. That 2 percent can go to general funds. It can go to operations or whatever the county deems that tax for. We are hoping and we are asking the Board of Supervisors to dedicate that tax to marketing for tourism. From the get-go we would like that to be a dedicated tax to help us with our marketing efforts. Of Virginia’s 96 counties, 71 of them have a lodging tax. Twenty-seven of those counties have a 2 percent tax and that’s what we’re asking for initially. Thirty-two counties have already bumped that 2 percent up to 4.5. Some counties like Bath went right in and asked for 4 percent at the beginning. But they had to go to the State, to Richmond, to get approval to do that. Five counties are already up to 6-8percent (lodging) tax,” she said.
Several of Highland County’s bed and breakfast establishment owners were invited to this meeting of the EDA. During the last part of her presentation, Ms. Bedwell addressed some comments specifically to them.
“Of the communities and counties that are in the Virginia Western Highlands tourism group, Alleghany, Craig, Bath and Highland, Highland is the only one that does not have a transient occupancy tax,” said Ms. Bedwell. “One of the most important elements, is that by having the lodging tax, we’re not adversely impacting members of our community. We are trying to bring in new money into the community, and new money means new growth. We cannot continually recycle just the funds that we have within the community. We have to have some new money, some fresh money. We have to remain competitive with the other counties that are already collecting this tax and using it for marketing dollars. The lodging establishments are going to be critical to the success of this plan and of the tax. We felt that you were going to be the strong ambassadors for it, and we need you as advocates for the plan,” she said.
The EDA’s Tourism Subcommittee plans to present the Tourism Strategic Plan to the full EDA for consideration at its January meeting.