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RICHARDS: HOTEL TAXES FOR FY 2003 A RECORD HIGH

Nov. 7, 2003 – Tourism Commissioner Pamela Richards has told Gov. Charles W. Turnbull that receipts from the territory's hotel-room levy for Fiscal Year 2003 added up to "the highest revenue collected in the history of the tax."
Some $13 million flowed into government coffers from hotel-room taxes during FY 2003, Richards said in a statement issued Thursday afternoon. The figure "represents a 27 percent increase over Fiscal Year 2002," she said.
The territory's fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30. The FY 2002 total — for the year immediately following on the mainland terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when leisure travel initially went flat — came to $9.4 million, according to the release.
The hotel tax is 8 percent of room rates. The governor in his proposed FY 2004 budget is seeking an increase to 10 percent, a move opposed by the hospitality industry and rejected earlier this year by the Legislature when Turnbull proposed it as a part of his "fiscal recovery package."
Money from the hotel-room tax is supposed to go into the Tourism and Advertising Revolving Fund to be used exclusively for off-island promotion of the territory as a visitor destination. But the Legislature from time to time raids the fund, and how much of $13 million was actually spent on tourism advertising was unclear.
The governor's FY 2004 budget calls for a General Fund appropriation of $3.04 million for Tourism Department operations, but the 437-page document does not appear to address anticipated revenues or outlays from the hotel-room tax.
Whether the 27 percent increase in hotel-tax revenues for FY 2003 over FY 2002 reflects an increase in visitor night stays in the territory or an increase in room rates could not be determined. Calls to the Tourism Department and the territory's two hotel associations went unreturned on Friday.

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