Enterprise triples lodging taxes to fund tourism office

Posted by: Melissa Johnson - bio | email

Enterprise, AL (WSFA) - Enterprise may be known for the Boll Weevil, but city leaders are working to make it also known as a tourism destination

Councilmen voted to triple the city's lodging taxes from two percent to six percent, and that increase in revenue will pave the way for the city's first tourism office.

In Alabama, tourism means big business.

In fact, it's the state's second largest sector of the economy, bringing in nearly $10-billion dollars a year.

It's an opportunity, says Enterprise Chamber of Commerce President Phil Thomas, he wants to maximize by creating the city's first tourism office.

Thomas said, "It's sole job would be to recruit tourism and bring people into our community—large groups and individuals to come in for trade shows, conventions, and reunions."

With a newly finished 32,000 square foot civic center and large sports complex, the venues are there.

Now, all they need are the tourists, and, of course, all those extra warm bodies in town will need a place to stay.

Right now, the city has around 540 rooms, but that number will jump to more than 800 after two hotels currently under construction are completed.  And officials say, there are even more hotels that will begin construction in the near future.

Thomas said, "We want to make sure that we've got somebody out there recruiting people to put head in those beds, so that when those new hotels do get here, we're going to keep them filled."

While the local hotel industry hopes to benefit from an increase in tourism, it's the guests who will foot the bill, not the local taxpayer.

Enterprise hotel owner Umesh Patel says he knows some customers won't be happy with the bed tax at first, but after a while he hopes it won't be an issue.

Patel said, "It's going to hurt business at the first of the year, but I think day by day, it's going to help me."

Thomas said they've worked hard to get the hotels on board with the tourism office plans.

He says it will change the way the City of Progress brings in business.

The new lodging ordinance goes into effect January 1, 2010.

Chamber officials hope to have the tourism office up and running within 6 to 12 months.

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