Taxes for Profit

McGinn, Constantine, Godden and Burgess announce new hotel taxes Tuesday.

Scenario:  So, I was in Seattle last week for my company’s annual convention.  Great city!  Martha and I went up in the Space Needle and discovered we could see all the way to Sarah Pain’s house in Alaska!  Well, maybe not, but the view was wonderful! 

Anyhow, we had a great time, until we went t0 pay our hotel bill.  The damned Hilton charged us $2 day for their advertising!  Jeeezzz.  I did not mind paying for the parking and the extra down pillows but how come I need to pay them to get me to come here?


more from the Seattle PI:  Seattle has big events coming next year – from the return of King Tut to the 50th anniversary of the World’s Fair – that it wants to tell the world about. To help do that, the city’s Downtown hotels want to increase the already high tax rate on rooms.

City Councilmembers Tim Burgess, Jean Godden, Mayor Mike McGinn and County Executive Dow Constantine joined business and labor leaders at Seattle Center to announce a $2 nightly surcharge on certain hotel rooms in the city. Proponents say the fee, which will raise up to $6 million next year to pay for advertising and promotion, is vital considering the scale of the offerings on tap for 2012 and the fact that Washington state recently eliminated its already low tourism budget entirely.

As The New York Times notes, Washington, which axed its $1.8 million tourism office to help deal with a $5 billion deficit, is now the only state without any dedicated funding to lure visitors.

“Tourism is a critical component of our economy,” said Burgess, adding that 20,000 people in the city have jobs that cater to out-of-town visitors.


But the city’s 15.6 percent hotel tax is already one of the highest in the country. And business interests often complain that increasing fees discourages economic activity and often drives people elsewhere.

What’s to stop people from spending the night in Bellevue, Lynnwood or Federal Way to avoid forking over more money?

Howard Cohen, president of the Seattle Hotel Association, said people will pay more to experience the dynamism of the Emerald City’s core. McGinn said the quality of what Seattle has to offer will trump the expense.

“That’s how we’re going to compete and win,” he said.

According to the National Business Travel Association, only Anaheim (17 percent) has a higher occupancy tax among major Western cities. The new, $2 fee would make the Seattle tax on a $150 room 16.6 percent.

If the City Council approves the new fee as expected later this year, the money would be spent on promotion and advertising to bring people to town during the slow winter and spring months and to let them know about things like the return of the King Tut Exhibit to Seattle Center May 24. It’s Tut’s second trip to town. In 1978, the Tut exhibit drew more than $1 million. The Tut show is conjunction with the 50th anniversary celebration for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair.

Godden said tourism brings “dollars to the pocketbooks of Seattle.” Constantine agreed. “Tourism is not a frill. Tourism is big business.”

Washington had already been doing a woeful job in promoting itself, even before zeroed out its tourism budget, business interest say. Seattle’s Convention and Visitors Bureau said the $1.8 million the Evergreen State spent last year compared to $7 million spend by Idaho, $10,2 million by Oregon and $50 million by California.

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