Council Member ________
King County Courthouse
516 Third Avenue
Seattle, WA 98104
Re: 2% State-Shared King County Lodging Tax Motion
The Honorable Council Member _______,
Why is the tourism industry always last on the list to receive a piece of the tax revenue it generates?
For decades, our county lodging tax revenues have funded stadium districts, affordable housing projects and programs, myriad essential services and so many other needs. However, we are consistently left out of conversations about where the money should go and routinely forced to beg for scraps.
Our industry has always supported the use of lodging tax dollars for purposes other than tourism – but in tandem with appropriate investment in tourism marketing to ensure that the industry thrives and returns tax revenue for the good of all.
You haven’t listened. Our region’s destination marketing organizations were not told of the motion to give away promised revenue for tourism until the day before it was transmitted to the King County Council. And though the council had an opportunity (via a different amendment) to direct a relatively small but respectable stream to tourism while still appropriating the lion’s share to the Seattle Mariners and affordable housing – you voted it down.
Tourism doesn’t just happen. It requires investment in sustained destination marketing programs. We have seen our competitors gain market share through well financed and aggressive marketing efforts. In fact, their destination marketing budgets are quickly out-pacing ours.
Jobs, economic impact and future tax revenue depend on a robust tourism industry. The county’s tourism industry supports 76,000 jobs, generates $7 billion in visitor expenditures and stimulates $762 million in visitor generated tax revenue – offsetting the county’s household tax burden by nearly $1,000 a year. These are returns on the tourism industry’s marketing investment. The state legislature designated a tourism fund from 25% of future county lodging tax revenue for a good reason – respectable returns require respectable investment. If tourism’s share of funding is cut by 94% - as this legislation proposes - then returns for baseball, housing and other uses will fall short.
Council members, Visit Seattle and Seattle Southside Regional Tourism Authority have each requested funding levels from the tax revenues they help generate beginning in 2021. Their requests are modest in comparison to the other requests, but fair for their industry and smart business for the county. I urge you to honor those requests.