Hospitality tax opposition is galling
As a city resident and homeowner, I was encouraged to read of progress being made toward the passage of a local hospitality tax. This tax on patrons, not hotel and restaurant owners, would provide some financial support from those coming to Bemidji to enjoy events at the Sanford Center, whose deficit is currently being subsidized by city taxpayers.
The opposition to this tax by the Chamber of Commerce and VisitBemidji and its hotel members, the primary beneficiaries of the Sanford Center, is truly galling. Their argument that revenue would be lost to the imposition of the tax is not credible.
As a former manager of a local lodging establishment, in 15 years on the job I did not have more than a handful of guests ever inquire about the tax on their room rates. Someone paying $100 a night for a room is simply not going to change their plans due to a new 50-cent to $1 tax. This new hotel tax rate of around 11 percent is within the range of hotel taxes charged by other cities with visitor and convention bureaus, and is less than Duluth’s current hotel tax rate of over 12 percent.
Passage of this tax will be a “positive” for city taxpayers and at least a “neutral” for the hospitality industry, which will continue to enjoy disproportionate private financial benefits from the publicly funded Sanford Center.