This guest blog is written by Morgan Hickel who is the State Government Affairs Manager from the Washington Hospitality Association

Generating and improving local tourism is critically important to all communities, residents, and businesses in the state of Washington. Recently, however, our members have expressed challenges with the local lodging tax process and the transparency in the use of these dollars.

Under Washington State Law, lodging facilities throughout the state pay lodging or hotel-motel taxes which benefits tourism efforts like marketing the community and operations promoting tourism.

The legislature also requires local governments to submit a report to the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee describing how the lodging tax dollars were used in the community and report the number of people traveling to the area for business trips or vacations.

The use of the lodging tax revenue is cyclical, meaning it is used to attract out-of-town tourists to an area for business or pleasure, which in turn creates jobs, fuels the economy and generates additional tax revenue.

Without heads in lodging beds, these local tourism dollars do not exist. Revenue generated from the local lodging tax should be focused on supporting and improving tourism efforts that bring out-of-town and overnight guests to the community. This ensures local lodging taxes are regenerated and healthy for continued use in the future. A notable example is Hoopfest in Spokane.

Increasingly, our members encounter struggles with transparency and clear guidelines for the application and use of these tourism dollars. The Local Tourism Advisory Committees (LTACs), are local entities created to recommend recipients of the lodging tax dollars to municipalities. LTACs and municipalities should work together with stakeholders to discuss best practices and establish transparent and consistent processes for the application and use of these dollars.

There have also been challenges with conflict resolution between Local Tourism Advisory Committees (LTACs), our members and municipalities. Instead of using lodging tax dollars to promote the community, use of these funds on items such as hanging baskets, murals, parade floats and local community celebrations erodes trust with the current funding process.

Our goal is to ensure the local lodging tax process is transparent and that these dollars are being utilized appropriately. Municipalities, LTACs, and those contributing funds should work in partnership for the benefit of their community. Let’s utilize our local lodging tax dollars wisely to benefit all in Washington state.

Morgan Hickel, State Government Affairs Manager for the Washington State Hospitality Association. She transitioned in January 2017 from serving as the Association’s Seattle local government affairs manager. In her state role, she has taken lead on statewide tourism promotion and lodging-related issues. She also sits on the Washington State Task Force Against the Trafficking of Persons.

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