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Lodging group continues hotel tax opposition

Tia Lynn Ivey News

The Madison Mayor and City Council received some pushback from local hoteliers over a proposed increase to the City’s Hotel Motel Tax. Mike Conrads, on behalf of The Madison-Morgan Lodging Association (MMLA), appeared before the Madison Mayor and City Council Friday morning, along with other MMLA members, to oppose a proposed tax increase, requesting that the Madison-Morgan Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) first be revamped before any further consideration is given to the tax increase.

Conrads argued that any increase to the Hotel/Motel Tax would not only negatively impact the lodging businesses in Madison, but the entire local economy.

“It’s a ripple effect that will shoot out to every business,” said Conrads. “We are asking specifically that you continue as good stewards to exercise fiscal responsibility for the benefit, not only for just us, the hotel-motel folks, but for all our associated partners out there—the restaurants, the retailers, the venues, the attractions out there. What we touch is across the entire spectrum of businesses in this community…you will see any action taken to increase the Hotel Motel Tax will have a negative impact on us, the MMLA, but will also extend beyond into the entire community.”

Conrads also criticized the Madison-Morgan Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), the designated organization to use Hotel/Motel tax funds for the purpose of tourism promotion, claiming the organization isn’t efficiently utilizing the money it already receives. Conrads complained that the CVB spends too much of its funding—72 percent of the advertising budget—on print advertisements instead of digital marketing. Conrads also claimed the CVB is not focused enough on promoting overnight stays.

“Heads in beds needs to be included in their plan,” said Conrads.  “They need to have a smart business plan. Do they have it? No.”

Conrads also requested that an MMLA member served on the CVB board to have a voice in the direction and vision of the CVB.

“Our concern is that we need to fix the underlying issues before we look at anything else. We don’t have a clear mission of where we are trying to go and we have a group that is not focused on our business at all. We are very frustrated as you can tell,” said Conrads, who vowed to keep fighting against any efforts to raise the Hotel/Motel Tax.

The MMLA also made a presentation of how various Georgia jurisdictions set Hotel Motel Tax, noting that about half of Georgia counties do not even utilize that tax at all.

“Madison is right in the middle,” said Conrads. “Not everyone is at 8 percent…the average rate is 5.85 percent. “

Councilwoman Chris Hodges defended the CVB, reminding the MMLA that she was the one to reintroduce the proposal to raise the Hotel/Motel Tax, not the CVB.

“This was my doing because I believe we need to have this conversation and communicate with each other,” said Hodges.

Hodges and City Manager David Nunn also pointed out that not all Georgia cities and counties have a tourism market and cannot adequately be compared to Madison’s situation.

“Madison has a great tourism reputation and we compare ourselves to certain places around the state with a similar tourism market,” said Nunn.

The MMLA and City Council promised to continue exploring the ramifications of raising the Hotel/Motel Tax and to better partner with the CVB to collaborate on how tourism promotion is handled.

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