The Senate bill includes provisions to use some of the additional money for economic development, historic preservation and the arts. The Senate bill also would allow counties to use some of the new tax dollars for grants to help pay for police.
Massaro said the travel and tourism association believes any additional hotel tax should be used exclusively for promoting tourism in Pennsylvania. Raising taxes and then using the money for things un-related to tourism would be “self-defeating,” Massaro said. Raising taxes would create a disincentive for travelers to visit that would have to be overcome, he said.
State Rep. Mark Longietti, D-Mercer County, said hotel tax dollars are being used to help pay for Water Fire Sharon, a festival this weekend along the Shenango River. Longietti, a member of the House Tourism Committee, asked tourism industry officials at the hearing if they objected to that use.
Massaro said Mercer County’s use of the hotel tax dollars seemed appropriate, noting industry officials are more concerned about ventures where tourism promotion money is spent on upkeep for convention centers and visitors centers.
Mazyck said VisitMercerCountyPA is spending about $30,000 of hotel tax revenue on the festival. That spending is through a special grant program that the visitors bureau uses to help boost local attractions to bring in new visitors and convince tourists to return.
Additional dollars also likely would be used to help local tourism businesses pay for advertising, Mazyck said, and to improve the use of signs along Interstate 80 to get people off the interstate.