On June 17 Governor Rick Perry signed into law SB 349, which will add two percent to Tyler’s Hotel Motel Occupancy Tax rate, to be used for the expansion or construction of conference or event facilities for the community.  The bill was introduced during the regular session by Senator Kevin Eltife and Representative Chuck Hopson at the request of Mayor Barbara Bass and the Tyler City Council.
“We are extremely grateful to our state level elected leaders who went to bat for us on this,” said Mayor Bass.  “The ability to raise funds for facilities which will attract tourism and conferences without raising our property tax rates for our citizens is very important to establishing tourism as an economic engine in Tyler.”
“It was an honor for me to help the Mayor and Council achieve their goal during this legislative session and I appreciate Governor Perry signing SB 349 into law,” said Senator Eltife.
Tourism was identified as one of Tyler’s chief opportunities for economic growth in the Industry Growth Initiative that was adopted in mid-2010.  It is estimated that nearly 20,000 visits are lost each year because Tyler has not had the facilities to accommodate large conferences.
“Tourism brings fresh dollars to our economy,” explained Bass.  “This is money from outside our region being spent in Tyler.  The result is jobs for Tylerites and economic vitality.”
The additional revenue from the two percent increase will be captured in a unique account and will be used solely for the purpose of expanding or constructing convention or event facilities.  It is anticipated that $500,000 will be raised annually.
“A specific project has not yet been identified,” said City Manager Mark McDaniel. “The need for larger conference/event facilities has been discussed for years.  With the adoption of the IGI, we felt that the time was right to begin putting funding sources in place to address this call for expanded facilities.  Now that we know that a revenue stream has been established, we will continue our exploration for an appropriate project that will be the most beneficial for Tyler.”
The Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce, the Tyler Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Tyler Economic Development Council and the Tyler Lodging Association all provided letters of support for the additional two percent occupancy rate.
“The revenue generated by the new rate will help to generate income to fill the need for conference facilities,” said Henry Bell, chief operating officer for the Chamber of Commerce.  “This will give us a competitive advantage when trying to bring large conferences to Tyler.”
A letter of explanation and revised Report of Hotel Motel Occupancy Tax Form will be sent to all Tyler hotels from the City of Tyler Finance Department prior to the planned Sept. 1 effective date.  A local ordinance to put the bill into effect will be presented to the Tyler City Council on July 13.