Proposed ordinance would hike hotel/motel occupancy tax in Memphis

(WMC-TV) - If plan on staying in a hotel or motel in the city of Memphis, it may cost you more in the near future, thanks to a new proposal seeking to increase the city's occupancy tax.

Monday, Metropolitan Memphis Hotel and Lodging Association Chairman Wayne Tabor said Councilman Edmund Ford, Junior's proposal to increase the hotel/motel occupancy tax would cripple Memphis' convention and visitor industries.

"Paying 20 percent on a hotel room for 130 dollars is quite a bit of money," Tabor said.

The ordinance says the tax would benefit 11 tourist attractions, from the Pink Palace Museum to Riverfront Development.

"We get complaints about it now," Tabor said of the current occupancy tax rate.

In fact, Tabor said, Memphis already has the highest occupancy tax in the nation - higher than New York.

"They were right around 19 to 20 percent a few years ago, and it hurt the tourism industry so bad that Mayor Bloomberg, when he came into office, repealed the tax," he said.

According to Tabor, hotel and motel owners project this kind of tax increase would put 20 percent of their workforce in jeopardy.

"Of course, if we're not renting rooms, we're going to be laying folks off, and if conventions and tourists aren't coming to Memphis, restaurants aren't going to be busy. In turn, they would lay folks off," he said.

Ford was unavailable for comment Monday, but Councilman Kemp Conrad, the chairman of the committee hearing the ordinance, hoped Ford would amend or withdraw it.

"I look forward to getting a full vetting of this - of hearing Councilman Ford's idea," Conrad said. "But I don't think my mind is going to be changed simply looking at the facts of this situation is that I will be against this."

The ordinance will be heard by council members at 11:00 a.m. Tuesday.

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