Understanding Lodging Tax

By on August 14, 2009
Understanding Lodging Tax

A lodging tax is a tax that is placed on hotel rooms.  In Wyoming the lodging tax can be either 1, 2, 3 or 4% depending on what the voters of that community decides.  Teton County and Sublette county are the only two counties with no lodging tax.  Teton County used to have a lodging tax but it has failed to be approved in the past 3 attempts to get it reinstated.  The primary objection to the lodging tax in Teton County has to do with the distribution formula.  The distribution formula dictated that the revenue collected had to be used for travel and tourism promotion, which many voters in Teton County were opposed to since they believed there was already too many people coming to Jackson Hole. 

The distribution formula is that 90% goes to travel and tourism promotion and 10% goes to the general revenues of the town and county.  In order to address the concerns of the voters, former State Representative Clarene Law was able to change the distribution formula specifically for Teton County, back in the late 90’s.  She changed the distribution formula to 60% to travel and tourism promotion, 30% to visitor impact services, and 10% to local government general funds.  Visitor Impact Services included public transportation (START), pathways, and museums.   Even with this change, the voters still voted no and thus Teton County still has no lodging tax. 

 The funny part of the story is that the opponents to the lodging tax were trying to stop advertising of Jackson Hole and thus reduce the number of people coming here.  The hotels and motels actually went ahead and implemented an “administrative fee” on their bills that they contribute into a larger pot in order to pay for national and regional advertising.  So the money is being collected for travel and tourism promotion but no money is going toward promoting public transportation, museums, or pathways.

One of the possible advantages to collecting the funds for public transportation is that it could greatly benefit the hotels if we had START buses run on a continuous schedule (no more time schedules, instead you just know that they come by every 20 minutes) and they could go further into the night.  Thus, not only could employees catch a bus after working the late shift at a restaurant in Teton Village to get back to town, but also the hotel guests could come to town, have dinner, and then still be able to catch a bus back to the village late in the evening.  We could also start moving toward having a free START bus service.  This is how most other resort areas operate. 

The other important point is that 3 out of the largest hotels in Wyoming are located in Teton County.  And they are not the ones you would probably name.  The southern half of Yellowstone National Park is in Teton County (the northern part is in Park County).  Teton County collects tax in Yellowstone.  Lake Hotel and Old Faithful are two of the largest hotels in Wyoming.  Canyon Hotel is actually the largest, but is located in Park County.  Xanterra, who runs all of the hotels in Yellowstone, pays 4% lodging tax for their hotels in Park County (Mammoth, Canyons, Roosevelt), but pay no lodging tax for those hotels in Teton County (Lake Hotel, Old Faithful).  Also Jackson Lake Lodge in Grand Teton National Park is in the top 5 and in Teton County.  Then you look at the all of the new large hotels in Teton Village (Four Seasons, Terra Hotel, Teton Mountain Lodge, Snake River Lodge).

Posted: Saturday, December 20, 2008 4:20 PM

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