Natrona County tourism council to seek lodging tax increase

2014-08-27T08:00:00Z Natrona County tourism council to seek lodging tax increaseBy TOM DIXON Casper Star-Tribune The Billings Gazette
August 27, 2014 8:00 am  • 

CASPER Wyo. — The Natrona County Travel and Tourism Council Joint Powers Board will seek an increase in the lodging tax — from 3 percent to 4 percent — on the November ballot after the board offered its formal approval Tuesday afternoon.

Since the tax hike would be tied to renewal of the lodging tax, it’s an all-or-nothing gambit for the Tourism Council’s marketing arm, the Casper Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, which is funded by the tax.

The tax hike is necessary

to compete with other Wyoming counties for in-state and

regional tourist traffic, according to the board.

“We’re being outspent by Cheyenne,” said Aaron McCreight, CEO of the Casper Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. “They don’t have a better product, they don’t have more product, they just have more money to spend.”

The state allows counties to charge a lodging tax ranging from 2 to 4 percent. The tax has been in place since 1988, according to McCreight. It was raised to 3 percent in 2000. Since then, he pointed to Laramie, Albany and Park counties as regions that have maxed out their lodging taxes.

McCreight said an

overwhelming majority of

hoteliers, along with the

Natrona County commissioners, supported the hike.

LeAnn Miller, general manager at the Best Western Ramkota Hotel, and Pat Sweeney, owner of the Parkway Plaza Hotel & Convention Centre, said no one from the board spoke to them about their opinion. They both told the board they had reservations about seeking a tax increase in the midst of a perceived rise in anti-tax sentiment.

“As a member of the 1-cent committee, I am very concerned with the 4-cent,” Sweeney said. “You’re going to have two initiatives side by side, a tax next to a tax, and there is a contingent that is going to fight it.”

McCreight acknowledged that he had heard the same concerns, but reminded the room that they would be advocating for the lodging tax renewal one way or the other.

“The economic impact tourism has … it’s a huge market for Natrona County, over $300 million in 2012,” McCreight said. “That’s a lot of money, and we’re certainly not taking credit for all of that, but we’d like to think we’re a big part of it.”

McCreight called the Convention and Visitors Bureau the only agency directly responsible for bringing overnight visitors to Natrona County.

Between $500,000 and $600,000 is directly spent advertising each year, according to McCreight. About 80 percent of the $1.5 million budget is tied to marketing and advertising in some way, he added.

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