A Proposed $2 Seattle Hotel-Room Tax Threatens to Complicate Funding for Nascent Washington Tourism Alliance

Yesterday, a coalition of 53 downtown hotels announced plans to seek a $2-per-night hotel-room tax to go toward advertising Seattle as a wintertime tourism destination. This comes on the heels of Washington's tourism office's going dark and transferring its core assets to the Washington Tourism Alliance, an industry-led group intended to pick up the state's tourism marketing slack. But mightn't the proposed Seattle-only tax complicate the Tourism Alliance's efforts to raise money in its own right?

"Absolutely," says Tom Norwalk, president and CEO of Seattle's Convention and Visitors Bureau (and $2 tax advocate, and interim Washington Tourism Alliance board member). "We'll have to figure out a way to make it all work."

It will be a difficult balance, because as Norwalk well knows, there's only so much money businesses will shell out (or force their customers to shell out) for the greater good of the industry before they start to feel the pain (or absorb the wrath of their nickel-and-dimed customers).

Shannon Sheron, General Manager of the downtown Red Lion Hotel, acknowledges this. "The challenge is both [the Washington Tourism Alliance and Seattle's proposed hotel tax fund] are being formed independently as we speak," Sheron says.

The Tourism Alliance, which will take over the state's tourism website, experiencewa.com, next year, has one overriding challenge facing it: how to replace the vanished millions of dollars in state funding so that it can get on with marketing the state as a nice place to visit. The big boys in downtown Seattle creating their own club--let's call it the G-53--will only steepen its uphill climb.

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