Cheyenne, Wyo. – The Wyoming House of Representatives passed a Statewide Lodging Tax, delivering on one of the Majority’s promises to modernize the tax structure without increasing taxes on Wyoming families. Introduced by the Joint Revenue Interim Committee, HB0066 removes funding of the Wyoming Office of Tourism from the General Fund and creates a reliable, steady source of revenue, 85% of which is paid for by visitors to the state.
“With 85% of lodging tax collections paid for by out of state visitors and the support of industry, we can dedicate that money to funding the Wyoming Office of Tourism,” said Speaker Steve Harshman. “By creating a self-sustaining funding model for tourism, we can ensure a reliable source of revenue for the industry not paid for by hard-working Wyoming families.”
“This is just another move to create consistent revenue streams for many of our state agencies,” said House Speaker Pro Tempore Albert Sommers. “Similar to what has been done with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the Wyoming Department of Transportation, this bill will give the Office of Tourism more stability in its funding.”
“Having spent the majority of my career in the hotels and hospitality industry, I know the importance of a vibrant Office of Tourism,” stated Representative Pat Sweeney. “Wyoming residents are paying much higher lodging tax rates every time they travel outside Wyoming. We might as well be recouping these costs from the millions of tourists visiting Wyoming every year. This bill will level out the uncertainty we have seen in past years surrounding tourism budgets and support Wyoming’s second largest industry.”
House Bill 66 would institute a 5% statewide lodging tax with 3% being diverted to a Wyoming Tourism Account and the remaining 2% going back to local communities as a replacement for a portion of the local option lodging taxes in each county or municipality. Based on the fiscal note provided by the Legislative Service Office, visitors to the state alone would generate nearly $16.6 Million for the Office of Tourism, while reducing the maximum rate local governments can levy from 4% to 2%.
According to Sweetwater County Joint Travel and Tourism Director, Jenissa Merideth, “Sweetwater County Travel and Tourism, along with the majority of the industry, has traditionally been opposed to a statewide lodging tax, however with legislators pushing each session to create a statewide lodging tax, it is critical that the tourism industry be a part of the conversation. The industry met in mid-2018 and discussed a statewide lodging tax structure that could be tolerated. What came from those meetings was the statewide lodging tax bill that was proposed for this session and what just passed through the house.”
Merideth also states that “With this 5% statewide lodging tax bill, 80% of 3% of the statewide lodging tax would fund the Wyoming Office of Tourism, taking that department off of the general fund, with the other 20% funding other departments under a specific formula, and the other 2% of the statewide lodging tax would replace 2% of the existing local option lodging tax. Sweetwater County Travel and Tourism would then have to go before the voters for the additional 2% to maintain the 4% that we are currently at.”
When it comes to the benefits the County will see, “The efforts of the Wyoming Office of Tourism (WOT) are critical to Sweetwater County tourism. The WOT has a significant enough budget to market the icons of Wyoming in larger markets that drive millions of visitors to Wyoming each year. Sweetwater County is not always the final destination, but 76% of our leisure visitors are on their way to Yellowstone National Park, after likely seeing an ad placed by the WOT, and we are very happy to be a part of an overall Wyoming Road Trip,” said Jenissa Meredith, Executive Director of Sweetwater County Travel and Tourism.
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