What the tourist tax can do for all of us

“We already have too many people here. Why would we increase the room tax to increase marketing and bring in more? ”

It’s a question I’ve heard dozens of times over the past year as I’ve advocated for a county-wide room tax increase. My short answer is, room tax is more than marketing, and always has been.

Yes, there will be more money for marketing, but if the Door County Tourism Zone Commission and Destination Door County (DDC) stick to the new vision, what this marketing means can be. different from the past. Beyond marketing, there will be a lot more money for many things that will improve the lives of locals and visitors.

Many have argued that more money should be made from marketing. It is not a choice that we have. Wisconsin state law requires that at least 70% of room tax revenue be spent on marketing and tourism-related activities and infrastructure. The remaining 30% goes to municipalities to spend whatever they choose.

An increase in the accommodation tax from 5.5% to 8% will produce a $ 700,000 each year for municipalities in Door County. That’s $ 700,000 that can be reinvested in roads, public transit, broadband access, affordable housing, sidewalks, bike paths, emergency services, buildings and our parks.

In addition, DDC has committed to send 19% of its overall budget (approximately $ 1 million) to municipalities and local business agencies that were previously funded by these local municipalities: the Sister Bay Advancement Association, the Jacksonport Business Association, the Baileys Harbor Community Association. , Door County North, Egg Harbor Business Association, Southern Door Business Association, Fish Creek Civic Association, Washington Island Chamber, and Destination Sturgeon Bay.

In 2021, our collective municipalities invested more than $ 450,000 in our local business associations. SDC’s commitment alleviates some of this financial burden, potentially freeing up funds for other purposes, if municipalities so wish. The net gain for our collective municipalities is $ 1,150,000 annually ($ 700,000 in additional tourist tax dollars, plus $ 450,000 in contributions to local professional associations).

In addition, DDC has also pledged to invest an additional $ 300,000 in our municipalities to help offset the costs that everyone spends each year on tourism-related expenses, such as playgrounds, boat launches. maintenance of the park, etc.

The increase in the housing tax offers our municipalities opportunities to improve the lives of residents. It gives municipalities the opportunity to work together and collectively fund solutions for many of the challenges we face today, such as public transportation, an affordable housing initiative, or a broadband cooperative to bring fiber optic. in every house in Door County.

But that’s not all that can be done.

By rethinking the way we promote tourism, we can do more.

The 70% of room tax dollars that go to DDC must absolutely be spent on marketing and tourism-related infrastructure; state law requires it. And despite the recent tourism boom, it’s important to remember that before the tourist tax was passed, we were begging for more visitors. As we learned after the previous tourism booms of the 1990s and early 2000s, complacency leads to crisis.

With the increase in the room tax, DDC’s budget will increase by $ 1.8 million, from $ 3.4 million to $ 5.2 million. There are many ways to spend this money on things that attract visitors, while also helping to preserve and advance our community. These two efforts are not mutually exclusive.

Rather than seeing a lodging tax increase as something that will invest more money in marketing and attract more people here, let’s take a look at the opportunity that a lodging tax increase offers our community. .

Here is a short – and certainly not exhaustive – list of some of the things DDC could invest in that would be considered marketing or tourism related infrastructure that would also benefit our community.

• $ 75,000 for seasonal workforce recruitment – not just ads, but a college and recruit program

• $ 500,000 for public transportation for five years

• $ 20,000 to the group of friends from each state park to work on trail preservation and signage

• $ 150,000 granted to municipalities for local public transport such as shuttles to alleviate traffic burdens

• $ 100,000 in cooperative marketing for charities

• $ 100,000 in grants for municipal tourism infrastructure projects

• $ 200,000 for broadband access for visitors and visitor centers

• $ 25,000 for information signage for visitors

• $ 100,000 for additional electric car chargers

• $ 25,000 for high school / college internships in the tourism industry

• $ 30,000 for the improvement of the launching ramps and / or the improvement of the access to the water

Door County has been a world-class tourist destination for over 100 years. Its success is the result of a community that strives for excellence and has always found ways to constantly improve and reinvest in itself in order to preserve the heritage of its people and the natural wonders of its landscape.

Fourteen municipalities have promulgated the new ordinance on the housing tax and the other five plan to adopt the increase in the coming months. The room tax will increase on January 1, 2022, which will not lead to a massive increase in tourism marketing, but a generational opportunity to work together to reinvest in ourselves and solve our biggest problems.

This is the opportunity to move forward, together.

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