Hotel tax increase vote nears

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Next month, voters will decide on a proposition that could see a $2 million impact to support tourism in Bossier-Shreveport.

Voters in Bossier and Caddo Parishes will take to the polls on Nov. 4 to vote for or against a proposition to levy an additional 2 percent Hotel Occupancy Tax on visitors staying at local hotels, motels and campgrounds. Approval of the proposition will generate an estimated $2.2 million annually without the need to increase taxes for residents of Caddo and Bossier parishes.

The funds would support the Ark-La-Tex Regional Air Service Alliance (RASA), Shreveport-Bossier Sports Commission, and Independence Bowl.

“The purpose of these funds is to expand the sports tourism and bring more people to the region to offset the loss of visitors from the film and oil and gas industries. We need to broaden our tourism and sports tourism is a proven industry that we are currently under performing in,” said Ken Antee, Commission Board Member, through an email to the Press-Tribune.

RASA will utilize the funds in their efforts to make air travel more convenient and competitive through the expansion of hub destinations.

“The overall goal of RASA is to seek and obtain quality air service through the Shreveport Regional Airport. The short term goal of RASA is increased business travel to the area by adding access to high volume hubs like Chicago O’Hare airport with United or American airlines, Charlotte with American Airlines, Washington DC with United and either Detroit or the Minneapolis/St. Paul hubs of Delta Airlines,” said RASA Chairperson Tim Wilhite via email. “Increased business travel will promote the area, better serve our business market and increase spending for hotels, rental cars and restaurants. The long term goal is to acquire a Low-Cost Carrier, i.e. Southwest Airlines or Spirit Airlines for quality of life for the community.”

RASA is a non-profit managed by a volunteer Board of Directors with no paid employees and no substantial operating costs. The organizations that created and support RASA include the City of Shreveport, City of Bossier, the Bossier Police Jury, NWLA Economic Partnership, GBEDF, Cyber Innovative Center, Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourism Bureau, Military Affairs Council, and all the Chamber of Commerce in the area.

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.

“The goal, from the bowl’s perspective is to increase the number of travelers coming to our area on an annual basis through sports tourism. That would mean an increase in travelers from other areas spending money in our cities, not only during bowl week, but also in conjunction with all the events that the bowl hosts throughout the year,” said Paul Pratt, 2014 Independence Bowl Chairman.

The measure became a ballot item after it passed the legislative session earlier this year.

After being denied twice before in the legislature,  State Representative Roy Burrell, D-Shreveport, carried the legislation — House Bill 1191.

“I know there is some controversy surrounding the new sponsorship of this important economic development project, but my primary job is to provide the mature leadership to look beyond such issues and deliver for all of the people of our region”, Burrell said at the time of the legislation’s passage.