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Favola: Tourism Funding Still Up in the Air

by ARLnow.com March 2, 2011 at 12:58 pm 1,691 40 Comments

Arlington County Board members are still figuring out what to do now that much of the county’s tourism promotion budget has been effectively slashed by the Virginia General Assembly.

Last week a bill that would have renewed the county’s 0.25 percent tax surcharge on hotel rooms — a tax that had the support of the local hotel industry — failed in the House of Delegates. The defeat was attributed to Republicans retaliating against Arlington’s HOT lanes lawsuit.

The tax surcharge brings in nearly $1 million each year, which is used to promote Arlington’s $1 billion tourism industry. The surcharge will expire at the end of the year.

County board member and possible state Senate candidate Barbara Favola says the board hasn’t decided yet whether it will replace the lost revenue. If it does, the money will have to come from the county’s general budget.

“It doesn’t make much sense to me,” Favola said. “This tax is paid by out-of-state people… If Arlington is going to continue this level of marketing, we’re going to have to raise the tax rate on Virginia residents.”

“It really was extraordinarily irrational,” Favola added, noting that Arlington tourism generates $58 million in annual tax revenue for the state. “I would think that having a dedicated tax… is financially in the state’s best interest.”

The lost tourism revenue will now have to “compete with all other county budget priorities” when Arlington’s FY 2012 budget comes up for adoption in April.

  • Lou

    I’ll gladly go on the internet and shill that Arlington is right next to Washington, DC for much less than $1 million a year.

    • borf

      No thanks.

  • Easton

    I really wonder if Arlington gets a decent return on its $1 million “promotion” budget. Personally, I’d say we can live without it, especially since most of that $1 million seems to go towards funding staff at the Convention & Visitors Bureau.

    Chances are that 90% of Arlington’s tourism revenue comes from the fact that we’re right next to DC, rather than from brochures or ads published by the County government. Since the Convention & Visitors Bureau is funded primarily through this hotel tax, it seems the CVB wants to keep the tax alive mostly to perpetuate its own existence. Someone really ought to take a look at whether a $1 million marketing budget is really warranted in these economic times.

    • BrownFlipFlops

      Well said.

    • Bluemont John

      +1. I’d be VERY in favor of the tax if it went to services for the actual residents, but Arlington doesn’t really need tourism promotion thanks to DC.

      • borf


        Do you think when DC sends out all its promotional materials and gets meetings and conventions set up and helps visitors find hotels and restaurants, it sends them to Arlington?

        Promotion is about alot more than just “come visit our town.”

        • Looks like borf is worried about his jobby job.

          • AllenB

            Why should he be worried? Your buddies in Richmond just gave the board the perfect excuse to raise the tax rate.

          • borf

            Nope. I don’t work for the government or in the hotel or tourism business.

            You fail again.

          • AllenB

            He fails often. He just doesn’t realize it.

  • Westover

    If it is really helping bring in tourism dollars, the hotel operators should have no problem coughing up the bucks themselves without the cover of telling guests the additional costs are a tax.

  • BigSpender

    “..If Arlington is going to continue this level of marketing, we’re going to have to raise the tax rate on Virginia residents.”

    WHAT MARKETING? Raising taxes? I already pay 8%+ for groceries! Someone please stop this woman for running for a higher office

  • John Fontain

    “If Arlington is going to continue this level of marketing, we’re going to have to raise the tax rate on Virginia residents.”

    So let me get this straight. I don’t own a hotel. I don’t get the profits from a hotel. But now I (not the owner of the hotel) am going to be asked to pay additional taxes so the owner of the hotel can make more profits?

    I don’t know how else to put this…Is Favola out of her bleeping mind? Seriously, is she?

    • Mick Way

      So you think the hotel guest doesn’t eat anything while here so doesn’t pay any sales taxes? You think the hotelier doesn’t pay taxes on those increased profits?

      Seems more like a classic capitalistic “spend money to make money” thing the county is doing.

      • John Fontain

        1. “So you think the hotel guest doesn’t eat anything while here so doesn’t pay any sales taxes?”

        No, that’s not what I think and I’m not sure how you inferred that.

        2. “You think the hotelier doesn’t pay taxes on those increased profits?”

        See response to #1 above.

        3. “Seems more like a classic capitalistic “spend money to make money” thing the county is doing.”

        Fine by me, so long as the party making more money is the one spending the additional money to make it. To suggest that another party should bear those costs instead is illogical.

        • Cranky Crankypants

          What we used to be allowed to do was tax the people who, theoretically, used the service. Now we can’t due to some Richmond ass-hattery. If we want to continue to provide the service, and I am not taking a position on that, it does need to be paid for somehow, and that somehow has to be different from the way we used to do it.

      • Burger

        It is a zero sum game. Visitors only have X amount of dollars to spend. The more you tax the less you can spend on private industry aspects like resturants, retail, etc.

        It isn’t that hard to grasp.

        If a hotel wants to fund the Arlington Tourist Bureau, feel free and then pass it along to their customers and let the marketplace i.e. visitors want to spend their money in attracting new visitors. I think we all know the answer to that one.

    • borf

      Um, Econ 101?

      You benefit when your neighbors are making money and paying taxes, one way or the other.

      • John Fontain

        Logically speaking, does it make more sense that the marketing costs be borne by the primary beneficiary or the denary beneficiary?

        • borf

          I agree that it makes sense for the hotels to do it, but that wasn’t really the question.

          • Lou

            What was the question?

      • Burger

        Which you failed. Econ 101 says you only have X amount of dollars to spend on a trip. The more the state taxes via taxes means the less you can spend on retail, food, etc.

    • borf

      Oh, and I think you misread her quote. She was noting that the hotel tax is on out-of-state residents, which makes sense, so renewing it would make more sense than replacing it with a tax on Virginians.

      • Lou

        Is it true that it’s only charged to out-of-state occupants, or is that just a working assumption that people staying in hotels must be from out-of-state? Because I’m sure some people from other parts of Virginia stay here, and even I’ve stayed in Arlington hotels before.

    • steve

      She’s still out of her bleeping mind. I can’t smoke at most of the hotels anyway.

      • cigarettes, weed, crack or meth?

      • OX4

        Why are you staying at hotels in Arlington? Do you just go there to smoke?

    • Hank

      Why do we impose a tax on hotels so the Gov can fund a Convention and visitors bureau that markets for the hotels?
      Why don’t we eliminate the tax and let the hotel operator do the marketing themselves?

      • Hank

        While we are at it let’s eliminate the sign patrol gestapo in the county gov and let the hotels, restaurants, etc.. market their products without interference from the gov.

  • MC

    Ms Favola is correct: the Virginia legislature is screwing the entire state out of state revenue.

    The chief benefit of marketing is to encourage events like conferences and such be based in Arlington. I think a lot of people naïvely assume they everyone who stays here finds us on Travelocity. And news flash: hotels pay taxes, real estate taxes to the County.

  • SeanO

    it seems to me the Board is now going to use Arlington taxpayer $ to fund its tourism budget in stead of the $ it used to get from out of towners. In stead of spewing hate about whether or not the tourism budget is valid, maybe we should wonder what local projects are going to be cancelled…

  • Watermelon

    Just the sight of Walter Tejada has ruined my evening.

    • Lou

      I actually didn’t even notice him in that picture.

  • Lurking

    A little food for thought…

    Hotels do indeed spend money marketing themselves and they have in many cases large sales teams to lure conventions and meetings to Arlington. However, once tourists get here they have lots of options on where to spend money – and Arlington’s tourism group focuses a lot of their marketing efforts on directing those dollars to Arlington shops and restaurants. In fact, just a couple of years ago the concierges of Arlington hotels were regularly sending their guests to stores and restaurants in D.C. – until Arlington’s tourism group started a training program to let them know about all the great stuff in Arlington. So – tax dollars get generated by visitors (non-Arlingtonians) which in turn help Arlington businesses…like I said, just some food for thought.

    • Lou

      That’s OK. Let the big corporations fund it themselves though.

    • Burger

      Shouldn’t that be an issue of the local business not marketing themselves. Why should the government be involved in taxing someone to subsidize private enterprise’s lackluster efforts in marking their services.


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