From Becky Fitzgerald, Chair, Harford County Tourism Advisory Board:
The Harford County Tourism Advisory Board supports a hotel room tax that would fund county tourism marketing. This position was taken after much research, debate, and finally consensus by this group of industry leaders appointed by the County Executive and representing every sector of tourism related businesses.
Tourism is the one bright spot in our lagging economy, with a $28 return on investment for every $1 spent in tourism marketing. Ninety five percent (95%) of tourism related businesses are small businesses, locally owned and due to necessary cuts to our county’s budget, our county tourism office’s budget has been significantly reduced. Reduction in local funding causes our local tourism office to lose a significant amount of matching state funds, thus further reducing our Tourism marketing budget.
Tourists to a community have minimal impact on county services. They seldom need the same services as our citizens. They just come into our county, spend their money in our businesses and go home – perfect guests! Moreover, I must say – tourists do love Harford County! Whether it is a sports team headed for one of a variety of sports complexes, or heritage tourists interested in our history, they not only visit, they come back. What we need is the means to spread the word about Harford, and what a lovely tourist destination it is. In order to accomplish our goals, we need the ability to fund our tourism marketing efforts.
We recognize that Harford County is the only county in the entire region (VA, DE, PA, MD) that does not have a hotel room tax. So as we ask for support with tourism funding, we are looking to our own industry to shoulder the burden – not our local citizens. It is time that Harford County final recognizes that it needs to stop missing its opportunity to generate a permanent revenue stream that does not tax its own citizens.We have seen some reports that estimate Harford County could earn almost a $1million annually by implementing a hotel room tax. While that is not enough money to make any kind of significant property tax credit for our citizens, it could make a difference in attracting visitors to our community, who will leave a trail of money behind them when they leave, benefiting our businesses and our employment base.
Understand our tourism related businesses are not asking for government handouts. Nor do they support siphoning off room tax revenues to give developers tax credits or support current or future capital projects. They’re simply asking for the playing field to be leveled, so that our county’s businesses can compete with those throughout the region. This is an issue of fairness and parity. Harford Countians pay room taxes wherever they travel. It is only fair that our visitors return the favor. We urge the Harford County Delegation to enact legislation to allow Harford County to levy a lodging tax. This lodging tax should be dedicated to tourism marketing, thus allowing us to achieve parity with the other counties in our state (and neighboring states).
Becky Fitzgerald, Chair
Harford County Tourism Advisory Board