Legislators should support Haywood room tax hike
The room tax hike being sought by Haywood leaders needs to pass and deserves the support of the legislative delegation in Raleigh, and we hope that Sen. Jim Davis in particular will get on board and shepherd this bill through the Senate.
The hike, an additional 2 cents on each dollar spent on overnight lodging, would bring the room tax up to 6 cents. It would net about $450,000 each year in additional revenue that could be spent on attracting tourists.
Davis, a Republican from Franklin, is concerned that some lodging owners and tourism leaders don’t support the proposal, which must be approved by the General Assembly. “It doesn’t go anywhere until there is a consensus,” Davis has said.
The problem is that an overwhelming majority of the tourism and elected leaders in Haywood County do support this bill. County commissioners, all the town boards except Maggie Valley, the Haywood Tourism Development Author-ity and the two chambers of commerce have given it a collective seal of approval. The holdout is the divided Maggie Valley Town Board and a handful of lodging owners.
Those of us who have followed the tourism industry in Haywood County know that there is never all-out consensus. That’s to be expected when you get a roomful of energetic, opinionated entrepreneurs trying to figure out both long-term and short-term strategies for their businesses to succeed. And that’s OK that there is seldom all-out support for anything.
And there is the Maggie Valley factor. Maggie is a town that has been redefining itself over the past several years, and the recession brought its own particular challenges at the same time. Truth be told, most who live and work in Maggie Valley know very well that elected leaders and the business community may never come together behind a plan for the town’s future. If that is the consensus Davis is referring to, then he may as well go ahead and pull the bill.
But all of Haywood County should not be held back by a few, and elected leaders in Raleigh might do well to look at this issue from that perspective.
Once the room tax is on the books and the revenue flowing, the whole county will benefit from the additional marketing. And those who argue that the additional money tacked onto a visitor’s room charges will send people to other counties are simply wrong. A $100 room will now have an additional $6 tacked on as opposed to $4. That’s not going to send anyone fleeing to Cherokee or Asheville for a better room rate.
This one is simple. Our delegation in Raleigh needs to give Haywood tourism and elected leaders what they have asked for before the May 16 deadline.