TAGW: City needs to put lodging-tax dollars back into tourism

Money from a tax increase that was supposed to provide additional monies for tourism marketing in Waynesboro is being used by the city for other purposes.

That’s the concern of the Tourism Association of Greater Waynesboro expressed in a letter sent to Waynesboro City Council on Monday.

TAGW lobbied City Council last year to push the lodging-tax rate up 1 percent, and the increase generated an additional $56,000 in city taxes for the six-month period beginning July 1, 2011, and ending Dec. 31, 2011.

“However, the Tourism Office’s FY2012 budget only increased by $17,500. The proposed FY2013 budget increases the tourism budget by only another $9,700. While we are pleased that our efforts have influenced an increase in this office’s budget, the point remains that the revenue generated by the Tourism Industry via the local hotels and bed and breakfasts increase in tax rates is not being directed back into the tourism budget as originally proposed,” TAGW wrote in the letter, which was signed by representatives of 10 hotels and lodging establishments in Waynesboro.

The letter notes that many localities, including nearby in Staunton and Rockbridge County, have used lodging-tax increases to fund increases in tourism marketing as an effective means of subsidizing tourism budgets.

“We appreciate the City of Waynesboro’s initial steps in making a commitment to tourism by identifying a sustainable funding source for an effective tourism program. However, there are many lost opportunities to maximize the travel industry’s potential since our Tourism Budget is still significantly lower compared to other Virginia localities,” the letter goes on.

“Therefore, as representatives of the local hotels and bed and breakfast establishments in Waynesboro, we request that the full 1% increase in the lodging tax be directed solely to Waynesboro’s tourism budget. It is unacceptable that the majority of this increased revenue continues to be used for the city’s general fund.”

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