With hotel tax, city can market area the way it needs to be

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 11, 2010

For years, Natchez’s tourism officials were sent into battle pitted against dozens and dozens of other cities in the South aiming for the precious attention of fickle tourists.

The only difference was that until July 2008, the front lines of the battle for tourism dollars was fought by a team armed with rifles and virtually no ammunition.

Until the passage of a “heads on beds” occupancy tax, the city’s tourism marketing wing was virtually powerless.

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Of course, we all know now that the anticipated fortunes the tax was expected to generate have yet to be realized. Likely a combination of an overaggressive estimate and the economy quickly falling into a recession are the biggest factors there.

A third factor — one that worries us — is the lingering fact that some local businesses are delinquent in paying the tax to the state. That needs to be handled quickly.

The tourism industry lobbied to get the tax passed. And perhaps they need to police their own cohorts to ensure that all of the tax money being collected from visitors is being properly counted and funneled back to the city’s marketing efforts.

Even with the lower-than-expected earnings amounts the occupancy tax should be considered a bit of a success because it’s allowed tourists to fund the marketing efforts to bring in more tourists.

And, more important, it’s armed the CVB with the ability to begin marketing the area like it has needed to be marketed for years.