It’s time for tourism to talk asphalt

Published 12:07 am Friday, February 22, 2008

The debate over a proposed hotel tax can be boiled down quite simply: Natchez consumers want to know what they’re getting for their money.

It’s time for tourism leaders to stand up and help the common people — including the Natchez Board of Alderman — understand what’s at play.

From a layman’s perspective, over the last 15 years, Natchez has spent considerable amounts of money on public projects promoting tourism.

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The city built the Natchez Visitor Reception Center and the Natchez Convention Center and has provided millions of dollars in tax incentives to the convention center hotel developers.

Last year, the city began paying the hotel developers to manage the convention center, too.

But the city is considering levying a hotel occupancy tax intended to raise more funds for tourism marketing efforts.

No one pushing the tax has been able to publicly explain how the money would be used.

Although the tax would correctly only affect hotel guests and few, if any locals, why should we raise taxes without knowing exactly why it’s needed?

Tourism officials have essentially defended the tax proposal by saying, “Other people have larger marketing budgets than we do.”

That’s not enough. To truly get community support — including the board of aldermen, who wisely sidestepped the issue this week — people need specifics.

Using public road vernacular, how many feet of asphalt will the tax buy us?

That’s tangible and that’s the kind of simple, explanation we need before we can snuggle up to a new hotel tax.