Motels split on lodging tax
Carbondale’s two major motel operators are split on the town’s proposed lodging tax.Days Inn co-owner John Miernicki calls the proposal “taxation without representation.” “The money collected by this tax in no way benefits the working-class people who stay in our motel,” he said.But the manager of Comfort Inn & Suites, Pete Wartell, supports the tax.”So long as it goes to promote the town, we’re happy with that,” he said.Carbondale ballot question 2A asks residents whether to approve a 2 percent tax on motel and lodge rooms.The projected $80,000 in annual revenues would be used to promote the town’s tourism industry.Many Colorado mountain towns, including Glenwood Springs, charge an accommodations tax on motel rooms, and use the money to promote local tourism.”The fact that we don’t have a tax puts us at a disadvantage,” said Carbondale Chamber of Commerce board member Artie Rothman. “We’re somewhat behind the rest of the market.”The Carbondale Chamber of Commerce has written a draft tourism marketing plan that town manager John Hier said can be implemented if the tax passes.The chamber’s plan for the next two years is long on the Internet and a public relations campaign and short on print advertising. The draft plan calls for:-An increased Internet presence and enhanced town Web site.-A town logo with catch phrase.-Hiring a public relations firm to convince newspapers and magazines to print articles about Carbondale.-Promoting local events.-An informational packet and brochure.-Advertising on Aspen’s Channel 16.”Until expanded or additional sources of revenue can be identified, print advertisements, with the possible exception of the Colorado State Tourism Bureau publications, should be delayed,” the marketing plan concludes.The ballot question also authorizes the use of lodging tax funds to repair and improve the visitor’s center or build a new visitor center.The three-page plan mentions the Internet several times, and says funds should be used to increase Carbondale’s name recognition on search engines.”Typically, these services are compensated on a per-unit basis as `hits’ are made on your Website …,” the plan says.Miernicki, at the 69-room Days Inn, said he already spends “thousands of dollars” on advertising, including $3,000 in the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association tourism guide.The majority of the Days Inn guests are not tourists, but Aspen workers who return to their primary Colorado homes on weekends. “We’re not Disneyland,” Miernicki said. “There is no benefit to the people who stay here.”A room at Days Inn averages $65 per night, Miernicki said, so a 2 percent tax hike would increase the nightly bill by $1.30. Motels already charge Carbondale’s 7.9 percent sales tax, he said.Wartell, at Comfort Inn, said he likes the chamber’s marketing plan, and as long as the lodging tax is used only for tourism, he supports it.Many Comfort Inn guests work in Aspen, while others are in town on business, and are not traditional tourists, Wartell said.Chamber board member Rothman owns the 21-room Thunder River Lodge, which sits at the north end of Highway 133. The lodge is outside Carbondale’s town limits, and would not be assessed the lodging tax, but Rothman said he’d contribute 2 percent of his sales to the town’s tourism campaign anyway.”I’ve heard of similar arrangements in other towns,” Rothman said. Contact Lynn Burton: 945-8515, ext. email@example.com
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