Voters may be asked to approve a hotel tax increase. Here’s how the money would be spent

Voters may be asked this summer time to approve a 3.75% enhance in Oklahoma City’s hotel tax as its conventions and guests bureau seems to enhance advertising and occasion incentives tied to new venues and points of interest.

The Oklahoma City Council is about to hear a proposal on Tuesday, which additionally would present funding for long-term capital enhancements at the new Oklahoma City Convention Center and the OKC Fairgrounds.

The hotel tax would be as well as to the state’s 4.5% gross sales tax and the metropolis’s 4.125%, leading to a complete room tax of 17.875%. The proposed election date is Aug. 27, and if handed, the new charge will take impact on Oct. 1. The present complete tax tacked onto hotel rooms is 14.13%.

Zac Craig, president of Visit OKC, mentioned the enhance is required to guarantee the metropolis’s new conference middle and surrounding points of interest, together with Scissortail Park, present the greatest enhance doable for employment and economic development.

More: Towering sculpture proposed for OKC fairgrounds to celebrate coliseum’s history

He mentioned advertising additionally will be wanted to entice new occasions at the MAPS 4 coliseum being constructed at the fairgrounds and the future MAPS 4 multipurpose stadium to be constructed south of Lower Bricktown. OKANA, a $400 million resort being constructed alongside the Oklahoma River, is anticipated to draw hundreds of recent guests.

“A vast majority of the people who pay this tax are our visitors,” Craig mentioned. “We’ve built this wonderful city we’re proud of, and now it’s time to welcome visitors to experience it.”

Hotel bookings in OKC have elevated since earlier than the COVID pandemic

Visit OKC began to launch a new advertising marketing campaign themed “The New Frontier” in early 2020, simply weeks earlier than the begin of the COVID-19 pandemic. The collapse in nationwide journey led to layoffs at Visit OKC, and staffing only in the near past recovered to the pre-pandemic degree of 26 folks.

The $288 million conference middle, constructed as a part of MAPS 3, spans 500,000 sq. ft and is the greatest assembly venue in the state. Visit OKC reviews conference hotel room nights jumped from 76,555 in 2019, prior to the pandemic, to 130,552 in 2023.

Citywide conference bookings requiring greater than 600 room nights went from eight in 2019 to 14 in 2023.

The hotel tax is paid to the metropolis of Oklahoma City, which then contracts with Visit OKC. The contract and incentives are overseen by the Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Commission, whose members are accredited by the Oklahoma City Council.

More: OKC is getting its own Chicago Bean: See the planned stainless steel sculptures

The Oklahoma City Convention Center is credited with an increase in conferences and trade shows.The Oklahoma City Convention Center is credited with an increase in conferences and trade shows.

The Oklahoma City Convention Center is credited with a rise in conferences and commerce exhibits.

Where would the further tax {dollars} be spent?

If handed, the 3.75% tax enhance would be allotted as adopted:

  • Visit OKC (2.84%)

  • Event Sponsorships (.50%)

  • OKC Fairgrounds capital enhancements (.25%)

  • OKC Convention Center capital enhancements (.16%)

Christy Gillenwater, president of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, mentioned doing a higher job at telling Oklahoma City’s story was recognized as an financial improvement precedence in strategic planning periods with a whole bunch of stakeholders.

“It’s an exciting time,” Gillenwater mentioned. “You just look at all the assets we have with MAPS investments. How are we going to tell this story? With our perception surveys, so many were not aware of our recent investments, or they had no impression of Oklahoma City at all.”

Jeff Penner, govt director of the Greater Oklahoma City Metro Hotel Association, mentioned space hoteliers assist the tax enhance. If handed by voters, the tax would nonetheless be decrease than what’s charged in Fort Worth, Memphis, Austin and Kansas City.

“Right now we’re at the lower end, tax wise,” Penner mentioned. “They’ve put together a proposal that would move us to mid-tier or maybe a little over mid-tier (among comparable convention markets).”

‘This just isn’t your dad’s Oklahoma City’

Penner mentioned downtown has a conference middle and its 3,904 hotel rooms are greater than sufficient to search to compete at a increased degree for conventions and tourism.

Another 404 rooms will open in 2025 at OKANA, which additionally will characteristic a water park, convention and leisure facilities, purchasing, eating and ultimately an aquarium.

The OKANA Resort & Indoor Waterpark, a $400 million resort being built along the Oklahoma River, can be seen in this March photo taken from the adjoining First Americans Museum.The OKANA Resort & Indoor Waterpark, a $400 million resort being built along the Oklahoma River, can be seen in this March photo taken from the adjoining First Americans Museum.

The OKANA Resort & Indoor Waterpark, a $400 million resort being constructed alongside the Oklahoma River, can be seen on this March photograph taken from the adjoining First Americans Museum.

“It’s time,” Penner mentioned. “This is not your dad’s Oklahoma City. It’s now a destination and we totally support bringing in funding that is needed to continue that.”

When voters accredited the final hotel tax enhance in 2004, these funds have been devoted to growing incentives used to entice conventions and occasions. Visit OKC reviews the proportion budgeted for advertising and promotion has not modified since the inception of the tax in 1972.

The request for a hotel tax vote has been lengthy anticipated by Mayor David Holt, who was first approached by prior Visit OKC President Mike Carrier about a rise in 2018.

“It’s been 20 years since the last vote on this, which passed by almost 90%,” Holt mentioned. “It’s a tax other people pay. It’s less of a political lift. It’s more about finding the right balance between the needs met by a hotel tax and the results it creates.”

This article initially appeared on Oklahoman: OKC Council being asked to submit proposed hotel tax hike to voters

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