Today’s Orlando Sentinel reports that Orange County’s county’s advisory Tourist Development Council should “raise its resort tax and spend the extra money to market the area to more tourists and help fund nearly $1 billion in downtown arts and sports projects”! The paper goes on to report that “the plan is opposed by a faction of the tourism industry”. Any wonder? That faction happens to be the hotel industry led by respected veteran Harris Rosen,a man who arguably has contributed more to Orlando’s hotel industry than any one else.
Orange County and Orlando plan to “raise a tax on hotel guests from 5 percent to 6 percent. The annual $25 million in added revenue would be split between tourism ads and civic projects“. Hotel room taxes are notoriously regressive and have historically been a handy piggy bank for pet projects of politicians seeking to enhance their profile ostensibly at the expense of outsiders. That the evidence is to the contrary matters not a whit to self-aggrandizing politicos intent on affixing their moniker on “civic projects”. The best example is New York City where a reduction in occupancy taxes in the early 90’s saw a surge in tourists and tax collection. Yes – there is an inverse relationship to tax collection and its ratio. When (if) politicians get it, communities thrive. Not the other way around. Mr. Rosen should be commended for at least insisting that the dollars go towards the industry that they are being pried from.