ST. FRANCISVILLE — The West Feliciana Parish Tourist Commission is asking voters for a two-percent increase in the occupancy tax on Nov. 18.
Occupancy taxes are typically paid by visitors who stay in overnight accommodations in tourism destinations throughout the United States. Funds generated by occupancy taxes are usually dedicated to the area’s tourism marketing efforts.
Currently, visitors who stay overnight in West Feliciana pay a three-percent occupancy tax. The West Feliciana Parish rate would increase to five-percent and could generate an additional $100,000 annually for the Tourist Commission. For instance, on a $100 hotel bill, which is average for the area, visitors would pay $5 instead of $3 in occupancy tax.
Tourism Director Laurie Walsh said she and the Tourist Commissioners believe the increase is necessary to allow West Feliciana Parish to stay competitive in all markets, domestic as well as international.
“St. Francisville and West Feliciana as a whole is a charming place to visit with lots to offer, but we must have a sufficient marketing budget to share that message,” Walsh said. “Tourism dollars trickle down to almost every business in the area and have been the backbone of the local economy.”
In addition, the Tourist Commission has historically relied on an additional $50,000 to $90,000 annually from the parish’s ad valorem tax that is dedicated for Economic Development. Walsh said these additional funds provided a safety net when the travel market suffers a downturn and allowed the Tourism Office to keep pace with increases in costs for advertising and marketing.
However, the Economic Development ad valorem tax ends at the end of 2017, and the portion provided for the Tourist Commission was already discontinued as of July 1. Walsh said the Tourist Commission is also seeking financial independence in accordance with its 2015 Strategic Plan.
“This occupancy tax increase will allow the Tourist Commission to continue strategic advertising and marketing to attract new and repeat visitors all while using funds provided by the visitors themselves,” Walsh said.