Centre Co. Looking to Raise Hotel Tax
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An increase in Centre County's hotel occupancy tax could have a significant benefit for the local economy and tourism, according to the Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitors Bureau. At Tuesday's Centre County Board of Commissioners meeting, CPCVB Executive Director Fritz Smith presented a request to increase the tax from 2.5 percent to 5 percent, the maximum allowable under Pennsylvania law for Centre and 56 other counties since 2016. Smith said that Centre County has the second lowest hotel tax in the commonwealth. "Quite frankly, we want to grow the economy in Centre County," Smith said. "We want to grow jobs, we want to grow economic impact, we want to grow visitation. We want to increase our sales and marketing activity to generate more visitation and spending to businesses in Centre County. We want to help more nonprofits. We want to attract more meetings, more sports events, more family travel, more weekend getaways." CPCVB receives hotel tax revenues for its operations in promoting tourism locally and to provide grants to nonprofits for events and initiatives to drive tourism. Smith said that Penn State accounts for about 80 percent of visits and hotel stays, but that the county has wineries, museums, historic sites and festivals that could be attracting more visitors with some help. Smith said the bureau expects the increase would generate $137 million in its first year and, by the second year, result in 320 new jobs in hospitality and other sectors related to tourism. He also projects hotel occupancy rates would reach the state average by the second year and national average by the third year. LeDon Young, Centre County Grange Fair committee member, said grants from the bureau have been pivotal in facilities additions that have helped Grange Park grow to become a nearly year-round attraction and "one of the outstanding equine facilities in the entire Mid-Atlantic region." Most recently, a CPCVB grant helped with a project for climatization of restroom facilities. "That might not sound real exciting, but that allowed us to host events starting earlier in the year and continuing later in the fall," Young said.