Pensacola, FL

The Escampia County Commission voted to tax a “fifth cent” on hotel rooms and vacation rentals in the province.

The county currently collects four cents for every dollar spent on hotel beds through the Tourism Development Tax. The money is used to promote tourism in the province of Escambia, as well as to fund infrastructure and events that promote local tourism.

In a 4-1 vote at a public hearing, the Commissioners supported a TDT increase of one penny to the dollar starting April 1, 2021. The committee also chose the so-called “Option B,” which allowed some funding to be used for marketing and promotion and some to fund a sports facility Like replacing or refurbishing the Pensacola Bay Center

Some of the most prominent hoteliers in the regions opposed the change, with many voicing their opposition at a hearing.

Most of the companies that will struggle with tax increases – hotels, restaurants and other hospitality industries – are already seeing deep revenue cuts as a result, said Tish Patel, president of Pinnacle Management and Investments that operates six hotels in Pensacola. Covid-19.

“Not only as a hotelier, but as a business owner, with a pandemic spreading, this may not be the best time to talk about raising taxes,” Patel told the commissioners.

Supporters of the change, however, argue that the additional financing will not only benefit business owners in the long run, but also improve the quality of life for all citizens of the province of Escambia.

“Part of this is to help offset the cost that the visitor bears for our partners,” Commissioner Robert Bender told his counterparts. “We see that across the state, (tourism development taxes) are being directed toward sports arenas, and directed toward infrastructure improvements that not only improve the visitor experience, but also for our audience.

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The tax TDT generates is roughly $ 10-12 million annually, and it is estimated that the fifth cent will fetch around another $ 3 million. More than half of the funding goes to Visit Pensacola, a quasi-governmental body that supports tourism as an economic engine in society.

The argument many used in support of the Fifth Hundred is twofold. First, the supporters say more money used to promote Pensacola area tourism translates into more tourists, which in turn creates more jobs, more sales, more advice, and more business at local stores, restaurants, hotels, bars, and businesses.

Second, people argue that the average Pensacola tourist wouldn’t notice the fifth cent somehow.

However, Commissioner Doug Underhill, the only person not to vote against the tax increase, said his peers were deluding themselves if they believed that the citizens of Escambia County would not feel this increase in their own pocket.

“When we call this tax a tourism tax, we ignore the fact that this tax is levied on the most vulnerable citizens,” Underhill said. “The tourist has a choice of where to go. The vulnerable citizen who lives in a monthly apartment, or even week to week, is there because they have no other stable option.”

The original proposal called for the fifth cent to go into effect on January 1, 2021, but Bender suggested moving the start date to April 1 to give hospitality companies more time to recover from COVID-19 and any lingering impact of Hurricane Sally.

For the first year, all applicable tax returns will go to the marketing and promotion of domestic tourism. Bandar has been mandated by his peers to work with local stakeholders to define priorities for the coming years.

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