A shot in the arm for tourism | AspenTimes.com

A shot in the arm for tourism

Dear Editor:

I am writing to urge everyone who supports a healthy tourism economy in Aspen to vote yes on 2A.

There have been a number of opinions expressed recently suggesting that an additional 1 percent tax on lodging might somehow hurt tourism. There is no debating the fact that today’s travel consumers are now more price conscious than ever, and being price competitive is essential to attracting visitors and filling rooms.

But when shopping for the best possible deal on lodging accommodation, consumers typically compare two measures: the room rate being charged and the total cost, including all taxes and fees. While the growing trend toward resort and service fees, sometimes in excess of $25 per night or 6 percent of the lodging cost, are indeed a factor, the percent of tax paid provided it is reasonable is truly a nonissue.

At Stay Aspen Snowmass, we book more than 20,000 guests annually into local lodging accommodation. The fact that Snowmass’ total tax rate on lodging is 12.8 percent versus Aspen’s 10 percent is neither a deterrent to booking Snowmass nor is it a reason that folks chose to stay in Aspen. Our total annual bookings are split almost equally between Aspen and Snowmass irrespective of the total municipal tax rate.

Should voters approve this additional 1 percent tax on lodging for marketing, our community will finally have the resources to effectively attract incremental visitors and grow tourism. The fact that Aspen’s total tax on lodging would increase from 10 percent to 11 percent is not in and of itself going to be a barrier.

While it’s the guests who will be charged this additional lodging tax, I must agree with some recent comments made suggesting that some local businesses will ultimately be paying for it. The lodging properties themselves will need to continue to adjust their rates in order to remain competitive, and they have clearly proven their willingness and ability to do so in the wake of this unprecedented economic downturn. If forced to adjust their rates to compensate for this additional 1 percent tax, I know that our properties, who overwhelmingly support this measure, will certainly do so.

A great analogy that locals can probably relate to is the impact of taxes and fees on airline pricing. Air travel has never been more affordable than it has been recently, despite the fact that the total percent of an airline ticket price going to taxes and fees has nearly tripled over the past decade.

When you make a decision to purchase an airline ticket, it is the total ticket price that you will evaluate. The percent that goes to the airline versus the fuel surcharge, the U.S. transportation tax, the passenger facility surcharge or the 9/11 security fee, are not factors that will impact your purchase decision. It’s the total price that matters. Likewise, it’s the total cost that Aspen/Snowmass lodging consumers will evaluate, not whether the total tax on lodging is 10 percent, 11 percent or 12.8 percent.

Please vote “yes” on 2A if you support local tourism.

Bill Tomcich

president, Stay Aspen Snowmass

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