Wichita City Council approves taxes to benefit tourism

Wichita tourism got a boost Tuesday from two City Council votes.

The council approved taxing authority for Go Wichita, signing off on a 2.75 percent tax for all hotel bills – through a tourism business improvement district – to finance a $2.5 million annual marketing war chest subject to an as-yet-unscheduled public hearing.

The revenue would go toward an enhanced marketing effort as Go Wichita ramps up plans to land national conventions, a growth area in the local tourism business targeted by a recent market study. The tourism business improvement district was recommended by a committee established by the council in September.

“We are pleased that the council adopted the resolution of intent for the tourism business improvement district,” Go Wichita president Susie Santo said. “The hoteliers understand the value of marketing our city and driving more visitors to Wichita. This is an exciting opportunity for our community, because more visitors to Wichita mean more outside dollars are spent in our community.”

The council also approved a 20-year extension of the city’s 6 percent transient guest tax, which raises about $6.3 million annually.

Santo thanked the council for the extension, saying it acknowledges the $750 million in economic impact Go Wichita brings in tourism business each year.

Combined with taxes already in place – including community improvement districts for some hotels that helped fund construction – Wichita hotel customers could be looking at tax add-ons to their bills in excess of 10 percent. That’s a tax percentage just below Wichita’s major tourism competitors, said local hotelier Jim Korroch.

“It’s a real win for the city,” Korroch said. “My hat’s off to Susie for coming up with an innovative way to raise dollars to promote Wichita, with budgets being what they are.”

Korroch said the additional tourism business improvement district fee poses no threat to the city’s hotel business.

“It still places us at or a little lower than some of our competing markets,” he said. “It’s not at all a threat to the hotel business in Wichita.

“You know, I used to like to take my girls shopping at the Legends in Kansas City. I thought that was a great deal with the outlet malls, but for the first time I’ve looked at my receipts, and it isn’t. They charge almost 20 percent at the Legends with that district.”

City Manager Robert Layton advocated the transient guest-tax extension to the council, since it funds long-term improvements to Century II as well as the city’s base tourism efforts at Go Wichita.

He said the original tax is scheduled to expire in December 2015.

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