By Joel Hall
On Tuesday, the Clayton County Board of Commissioners voted 4-0 to support House Bill 1094, which, if approved by state lawmakers, will revise the state's hotel/motel tax laws. (Commissioner Virginia Gray was absent.)
The measure will allow the county to increase its hotel/motel tax from 6 percent to 8 percent. It is also designed to simplify the language of the tax. The increase is projected to generate $400,000 in extra county revenue. County officials believe the money will benefit the county's tourism industry.
"It gives a little bit more money to us on an annual basis for us to market what we have here," said Pat Duncan, president and CEO of the Clayton County Convention and Visitors Bureau (CCCVB). "We're sitting right on [Interstate] 75. We want them to stay in our hotels."
Excluding the cities of College Park and Morrow, which collect their own hotel/motel tax, the CCCVB takes two-thirds of the 6-percent tax levied on hotels and motels in the county in order to promote tourism. Under the provisions of HB 1094, the county could increase the tax by 2 percent. One percent would be directed to tourism marketing, and the other toward specific tourism projects.
Passage of the bill will serve as a vital tool to communities seeking to create tourism attractions, said Ron Fennel, director of governmental affairs for the Georgia Hotel and Lodging Association.
"It's a positive development to continue our ongoing marketing efforts," said Fennel. "It should make additional dollars available for tourism development and marketing. We expect that communities with a project where they want to create a tourism attraction will take advantage of this."
Duncan said the county is working on creating a multicultural heritage tourism attraction somewhere within the county.
"It's still in conceptual stages, [however,] we're excited about the potential," said Duncan. "It would be a tremendous boost for our local economy and would really put Clayton County on the map.
"It would take a tourism project like this to qualify for the additional one percent," he added.
The additional 2-percent lodging tax will create branding opportunities with which to improve the county's image, said BOC Chairman Eldrin Bell.
"It will give us a further ability to brand and create a public relations program for the county, which we sorely need," said Bell. "People have asked us to get the good things out about the county, and we have not had a good mechanism to do that."
Bell said the extra tax revenue will allow the county to be "well advertised and well represented." The tax will come almost entirely from visitors to the county, rather than residents, Bell said.
"It helps us get the money from the people coming through here, instead of taking it out of the general fund," he said. "It will help ... keep taxes down."