Tourism industry depends on hotel/motel tax results

There’s a lot at stake in the Nov. 21 election.

On the ballot is a proposition that could generate millions of dollars if passed, resulting in a profound impact on the local economy. The hotel occupancy tax is the only proposition on the Nov. 21 ballot and community leaders are hoping to get a ‘yes’ from both sides of the river.

City officials have continually stressed that this is not a tax on the citizens of Bossier and Caddo, but a tax on visitors. The proposal would increase the hotel occupancy tax from the current 4.5 percent to 6 percent – which is levied and collected by the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourism Bureau. That amounts to an approximate $1.10 addition per night, per room on a guests’ bill.

Even with the increase, Shreveport-Bossier would still have the lowest average daily hotel rate of any major Louisiana city.RASA-Logo-Final-300x75

The additional 1.5 percent collected would be divided evenly between the Ark-La-Tex Regional Air Service Alliance (RASA), the Independence Bowl Foundation and the Shreveport-Bossier Sports Commission. GB Cazes, President of RASA, said a ‘yes’ vote will provide an opportunity to grow the local tourism industry.ibowllogo-150x150

“This is a way for us to keep a competitive advantage. Other cities do this around the country and it essentially feeds their tourism industries. We need this to grow more quality of life opportunities and activities,” he said. “This is a tax paid by overnight guests. If you don’t stay in hotels, you’re not paying it. If you stay in hotels a couple nights a year, it’s only a couple dollars extra.”

RASA will utilize the funds in their efforts to make air travel more convenient and sb_sports_commission-01-150x150competitive through the expansion of hub destinations. Cazes said connecting flights to places like Chicago and Washington D.C. will have a great impact on Barksdale Air Force Base as well as CSC in Bossier City.

“From an economic development standpoint, we need cheaper and more flight options. We anticipate with increased competition comes lower airfare,” he said. “Another round of BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) is coming to Barksdale in the next few years. One knock on our community has been transportation and the ease of getting in and out. Getting a direct flight to Washington D.C. or Charlotte (North Carolina) would have a great impact for Barksdale. If we get those connections to Chicago and D.C., we are one stop from the world…just like Atlanta and Houston.”

In addition, the Independence Bowl will receive funding for the promotion of Division 1 football events in an effort to attract more top-tier teams with great fan followings, allowing Shreveport-Bossier to maintain its presence on a national level. The Shreveport-Bossier Sports Commission will use funds to attract high-end, quality sporting events, stimulating job growth to the region.

The “no” votes cast by Bossier Parish voters in November 2014 were enough to defeat the tax increase in the two-parish election. Both parishes must pass the proposition in order for it to pass.

Cazes stressed that a ‘yes’ vote for Proposition 36 is a vote for continued economic development.

“When someone comes to our community, they stay in our hotels, eat in our restaurants, shop in our stores…they spend money and that all trickles down into us putting money into our infrastructure and our roads,” Cazes said. “We have a lot of things going for our community and anything we can do to continue and accelerate that growth is a good thing.”