Highland Tourism Committee looks for town council approval for lodging tax
Monterey, Va. –
Highland County Tourism Subcommittee chairperson Donna Bedwell brought her committee’s message to the Monterey Town Council at its meeting last week. The message had two parts, the first being the need for a county tourism council.
“We can’t just put out these wonderful ideas and then not have any way to implement them or finance them,” said Ms. Bedwell. “We have a recommendation for the Board of Supervisors for them to implement a Tourism Council. A Tourism Council would help give direction to the Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce to implement the goals of the plan and to help disburse the marketing funds that would be necessary to implement some of those ideas. But then what we are looking for specifically is a tourism council. We based this recommendation on benchmarking with seven other counties in the surrounding area. Counties that we feel have a lot of similarities with Highland,” she said.
Ms. Bedwell continues her presentation with the second part of the tourism subcommittee’s recommendation for the county.
“You will also see a recommendation for a transient occupancy tax,” said Ms. Bedwell. “I know this is certainly not a new concept. It is one you have heard about over the past couple of years. Many communities within the Commonwealth of Virginia have a transient occupancy tax. I’m just going to start calling it a lodging tax, it’s so much easier on the tongue. But about 71 per cent of the counties in the State of Virginia already have this tax. A lot of the counties we are already networking with and doing some collaborative marketing efforts with such as Bath, such as Craig, such as Alleghany, already have this tax. So we are hoping that by implementing it ourselves, we can increase our collaborative efforts with them and not be left behind if there is a wonderful marketing opportunity out there and we have to say we don’t have the funds to do it,” she said.
Bed and breakfast owner Chuck Neely spoke in support of the Tourism Subcommittee’s proposal. He noted that he and his wife Lou Ann, now have lodgers about 70 nights a year at their bed and breakfast establishment. Many of those lodgers ask why there is no lodging tax and most say that the county should have some way to support tourism marketing efforts. Mr. Neely said that many of his lodgers say they are used to paying 8-10% lodging tax in other parts of Virginia and in neighboring states. Mr. Neely emphasized that this tax will be paid by visitors to the county, not residents. Greg Morse, owner of the Highland Inn, was also present at the meeting to show his support for the tourism subcommittee’s proposals. Mayor Janice Warner responded that the Town Council would give the subcommittee’s proposal their careful consideration.
The next meeting of the Monterey Town Council is scheduled for Thursday, March 7 in the Highland Public Library.