Travelers in Dawson County could see an increase in their hotel/motel stays by the new year.
The Dawson County Board of Commissioners voted Thursday to increase the current 5 percent tax to 8 percent to fund the county’s tourism promotion initiative.
Marty Williams, vice president of travel and tourism for the Dawson County Chamber of Commerce, said the increase is needed to compensate for a lack of travel in the last year due to the uncertain economy.
“This could offset the threat of not receiving the funds needed to promote Dawson County and later the additional could go to grow tourism in the county,” he said.
The chamber of commerce received and paid out in expenditures over $176,000 for tourism development in 2008.
The authorization to increase hotel/motel taxes was approved earlier this year with HB 1168. The bill requires that at least 50 percent of the excess must be spent to promote tourism, conventions and trade shows by the destination marketing organization designated by the local government.
Any remaining funds would be designated for tourism product development to create or expand physical attractions available to the public or those that improve destination appeal to visitors.
Lodging, overnight or short-term camping facilities, convention or public assembly facilities, sports arenas, racing facilities, amusement parks, hunting preserves, welcome and visitor centers, museums, parks and performing arts facilities, among others, are listed as possible expenditures.
A welcome center and visitors bureau has been a project on the top of the chamber’s wish list for several years.
Several commissioners in the past have spoken of the need for a community fairground in the county.
District 4 Commissioner Julie Hughes Nix said she would like to see additional tourism funds go to the Bowen Center for the Arts.
“The Bowen Center does great things for Dawson County, and I think it’s time for us to step it up to the next level,” she said Thursday night.
Williams said he would love to see tourism increase in the area to bring enough funds to support the additional tourism development projects, but added the tax increase may very well only cover the current tourism promotion expenditures.
“I just want to maintain what we’re out doing now,” he said.
Commission Chair Mike Berg signed a resolution Friday. The local resolution must be passed in both the house and senate before the increase can occur.
E-mail Michele Hester at firstname.lastname@example.org.