Possible hotel tax raising questions for owners

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COLUMBIA - Some local hotel owners are wary of a possible hotel tax increase.

In November, the city hired a group of consultants to study the local sports tourism market and recommended increasing the hotel tax from four percent to seven percent. 

Columbia said the money could go toward a complex or a new terminal at the Columbia Regional Airport in an effort to improve the current infrastructure with the increase in demand. 

However, Glyn Laverick, CEO of the Tiger Hotel, said that he has some questions and is unsure of the benefits . 

"This tax is something that is very, very real for organizations like the university that books millions of dollars of hotel room nights here in the city every year and it would cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars more," Laverick said. "It may mean eliminating room nights for the city because the budget for the university isn't going to go up."

Laverick said that companies like Shelter Insurance, who book about 5,500 nights per year, would have to spend tens-of-thousands of dollars extra. 

And he believes a new airport terminal isn't enough.

"[Columbia] is an exit airport primarily," Laverick said. "It makes it very easy for people who live in Columbia or Ashland and other places close by to get to other cities and most of the market is centered that way. Do I think it's going to make more people from Dallas come to Columbia? No."

He also wondered what would happen to the tax once the airport was paid off, whether it would continue or be terminated. 

"This needs a lot more research put into it, a lot more thought put into it" he said. 

Laverick said Columbia isn't a destination city so people won't be coming into the city and staying at hotels and participating in other tourism activities with the addition of a terminal. He also questioned why the city is only looking at a hotel tax instead of parking revenue or charging more on current passenger fees. 

Laverick said he wants to support spending and tourism in Columbia, but doesn't believe that is what's happening. 

"I'm not interested in helping to promote tourism in Dallas and Chicago, and that's where a lot of this money is going to be going," he said.

He said there is a "great number of hotel owners and operators that feel the same way.

The Columbia Conventions and Visitors Bureau is currently gathering information and hearing opinions.