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Could more tourist spots benefit from hotel tax?

Wednesday, August 17, 2016 by Syeda Hasan

Austin residents are no strangers to big local events and, increasingly, neither are out-of-towners – but all of those visitors can take a toll on the city’s infrastructure. City Council is set to consider a plan that could direct more funding toward facilities affected by tourism.

The money would come from something called the Hotel Occupancy Tax, or HOT tax. The city collects the money from hotel guests and uses it to promote tourism. District 8 Council Member Ellen Troxclair wants to create a task force to explore new uses for the revenue. She’s sponsoring the resolution on tomorrow’s Council agenda.

“A lot of these things are things that we’re currently funding through property taxes, so if hotel occupancy taxes can be used, then it can relieve some pressure on the general fund and ultimately help lower property taxes,” Troxclair told the Austin Monitor.

Right now, money from the HOT tax goes toward the Austin Convention Center, the Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Cultural Arts program, but Troxclair said lots of other Austin destinations are affected by tourism. The task force would consider expanding the HOT tax to places like parks and museums.

“When you look at the reasons that people are coming to Austin, they’re not just coming for conventions,” she said. “They’re coming for parks. They’re coming for music festivals.”

The 13-member team would include representatives from the music and hotel industries, the parks community and more. Speaking at City Hall on Tuesday, District 2 Council Member Delia Garza said she’d also like to see community representation.

“I just wonder if there’s a way to add – I don’t know how to do it – like your average Austinite, some community type of person,” Garza said. “This seems to be centered around downtown events, and I really do believe that these downtown events have a big effect on the rest of the city.”

The Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau estimates that the city gets more than 22.6 million visitors annually – and that means lots of hotel reservations. In the next fiscal year, the HOT tax is estimated to generate more than $90 million.

Photo by Gabriel Cristóver Pérez/KUT. This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT.

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