Regional Convention & Visitors Bureaus throughout the state are faced with the question of whether or not to increase their room assessment, also known as a "Bed Tax" from 2% up to 5%.
What’s the impetus behind this proposal? And what do our local CVBs plan to do? Here’s what I discovered.
The facts on Bed Tax
If you’ve ever studied your bill after checking out of a hotel in other Michigan cities of a similiar size you’ll notice a 2% fee in addition to sales tax. This is the room assessment, casually referred to as a Bed Tax. This fee is collected by lodging properties with 10 rooms or more, throughout Michigan. The purpose is to create a source of income to be spent on tourism marketing efforts, which in turn benefit the travel and tourism industry.
So, what’s the difference between an assessment and a tax? A very important distinction: A tax is levied on the public as a whole, and therefore must benefit everyone. An assessment is imposed on a specific group, who in turn receive the benefits. In 1984 Michigan Public Act 59 set the room assessment rate at 2%. A figure which has been in place ever since. To change this rate requires an amendment to the legislation. Which is exactly what happened last autumn. This amendment passed into law on December 5, 2010.
Travel Michigan, the State department responsible for the program, issued a referrendum to allow districts the opportunity to increase their rates from 2% up to 5%.
Benefits of a rate increase
I first learned of this proposed increase at a recent meeting of the Grand Traverse Area Hotel Motel Association. Brad Van Dommelen, President of the Traverse City Conventions & Visitors Bureau, spoke to the members about the reason for the proposed increase and what the CVB would like to do with the funds.
Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau recommendion is to increase the assessment to the maximum amount allowed of 5%. Their goals for the increase include:
- Enhance their group sales effort to attract more regional and national associations
- Create a year-round marketing effort with ongoing campaigns in major focus cities
- Partner with Travel Michigan to create a national "Pure Michigan" ad specifically promoting Traverse City
By law, the majority of the room assessment must be spent on marketing.
According to Van Dommelen, while some funds go to operational costs, and improving group sales may require additional staff, "the vast majority of the increase will be spent on ad buys."
Five years ago, the TCCVB spent approximately $40,000 on advertising and promotion. Last year this number was $660,000 on ad buys alone. A 3% hike in room assessments would mean a huge increase in purchasing power for the region.
What does this mean for Traverse City travelers
If the proposal passes, guests staying in Traverse City hotels will pay a 5% room assessment, and 6% sales tax, for a total of 11% at the bottom of their bill. TC visitors currently pay 8% total. On a $100 room the increase amounts to less than the cost of a latte. And for these few dollars per room, they can strengthen the marketing initiative that puts diners in restaurants, cars at the pump, tasters in wineries and golfers on the greens. We all know this is a beautiful destination. Perhaps we just need to a louder voice to let everyone else know.
The Grand Traverse Area Hotel Motel Association announced their support of the proposed increase at the February meeting. According to Jonathan Pack, GTAHMA president, "The board is cautious of any assessment increase, but our focus is on national advertising that would show off Traverse City’s many new national awards, like Top Ten Beach Town (awarded by AOL Travel), Top Ten Fall Color Town (awarded by Tripadvisor.com), and Top Ten Wine Town (awarded by USA Today). Without the increase to the maximum amount of 5%, the capital needed to do a national campaign would take a many years, and the recent awards would be relatively old."
Pack’s sentiment was echoed by many of the hoteliers I spoke with at the meeting, and since. When asked about their reactions to the proposal, so far, everyone’s response has been positive.
Bryan Moore of the Courtyard Marriott is in favor of the increase as a means for remaining competitive. "So many small communities have jumped on and increased rates. We don’t want to be lost or left behind."
The travel and tourism industry is a competitive market. There’s a sense that the communities out spending money on advertising are the ones who reap the rewards with more visitor traffic.
Jeannie LaBonte, at the North Shore Inn is also in favor of the increase. "Whatever we can do to bring people up to Traverse City. It’s important."
But in the end, it is up to each and every property in the district.
In order to make the change each lodging property with 10 or more rooms, receives a ballot. The hotels must approve the referrendum by a simple majority. Each property receives one vote per room. The ballots are sent back to Travel Michigan, where they are counted and verified by a separate agency.
The Traverse City CVB began this process early this year. Ballots were due back to Travel Michigan on February 28th. The results of the proposed increase should be known by the middle of March.
If the proposal is approved the new rate will begin on April 1, 2011.
Where do other communities stand
Since I work with many businesses and properties in Benzie County I spoke with Mary Carroll, the Executive Director of the Benzie Area CVB, to find out about their plans.
Mary explained, "we are suppportive of the legislation that allows this to take place. But our board has decided not to increase at this time." She explained their board is comfortable with the current assessment and the ways they are utilized for marketing. Even a two percent increase would double their budget. But they wonder, "if we had 50% more money, does that mean we can bring 50% more visitors to the area?"
The law passed on December 5, 2010 which allows each district the option to increase their room assessment up to 5%. Since that time several communities throughout the state have started this referrendum process, including Holland, Sault Ste. Marie and Marquette, some of which have completed their approvals.
By the end of the month we’ll know if Traverse City will have more funds to spend on marketing.
"We’re a four seasons destination. And we need marketing out there promoting us in all four seasons. Our product is gorgeous. I truly believe this is what we need to move us forward."
— Brad Van Dommelen
For more information on the history of this legislation and Michigan assessment districts click here to check out the Destination Marketing Organization Manual for Michigan Assessment Districts.
Enjoy an Old-Fashioned Christmas at the Wellington Inn in Traverse City
Step back in time for a turn-of-the-century glimpse into Christmas past at the Wellington Inn this Holiday season. Experience an old fashioned Christmas at this beautifully restored 1905 neoclassical mansion in Traverse City’s historic Boardman neighborhood.
New this year, holiday tours will be held on the three Sunday afternoons preceding Christmas: December 5th, 12th & 19th. Hours will be 2:00pm – 6:00pm.
Local designers have ‘decked the halls’ with a spectacular display of holiday designs and decorations. Following your tour of the entire mansion, enjoy complimentary holiday sweets and hot mulled cider in the third floor ballroom.
Tickets are $10 at the door.
For more information call 231-922-9900 or visit www.WellingtonInn.com
Digging Around in the Lost and Found
How many times do you check your belongings, dig through suitcases and peruse the room before closing the hotel door on the final day of vacation? If you’re anything like me, about a dozen. And yet, we still leave important items behind.
When I was a child we traveled often on weekends for my father’s business as an event promoter. Late night check-ins and early morning dashes to the van to get back on the road meant we often left essential items behind in our hotel room. Not on purpose of course, but it’s bound to happen when you’re in a hurry, or if you travel often enough.
A recent trip with my dad brought back memories of those excursions. And I started to wonder. What are the most common items hotel guests leave behind when they visit Northern Michigan?
Since I just happen to work with over 60 hotels in the Traverse City area, I thought I’d take a little survey and report the results.
The 5 most common items Northern Michigan hotel guests leave behind
#5 Swim suits
#4 Toiletries (shampoo, toothpaste, razors, etc.)
#1 Cell phone chargers
I’m sure the number one answer comes as no surprise. In fact, cell phone chargers are the number one item left behind in hotels worldwide. A study last year by Holiday Inn and Holiday Express in the UK revealed 42,000 cell phone chargers left behind in their hotels in one year. What’s more surprising is their collective value: nearly $1 million!
What Else Did They Leave?
Forget the most common items, what’s more entertaining is discovering what area visitors forgot in the closet, stashed in the safe and inexplicably left behind. Our survey of Traverse City area hotels revealed several stories, ranging from the odd to the downright embarrassing. Here’s our list of the top five.
Top 5 Most Unusual Items Hotel Guests Left Behind
#5 Adult toys
As you might expect, underwear and lingerie are often discovered after check-out. And more than a few hotels reported adult toys among the mix. We’ll spare you the EEEW factor and other details. This is a family-friendly website after all.
#4 False teeth
OK, I understand that you have to remove them for cleaning, and could accidentally leave them behind in a glass on the sink or something. But honestly, how do you forget them? And how often do you leave them behind that you can’t remember the last time you had them??
#3 A walker
Discovering a walker accidently misplaced, or folded neatly in the closet may not be all that unexpected. But finding one sitting in the parking lot at the center of a handicapped space gives it a ranking on my strange-o-meter. As Alanis says, "isn’t it ironic?"
#2 A police-issue 9mm handgun
Placed in the safe for security it was left behind. Unfortunately for the officer, that’s a big no-no. The hotel reported it and the officer got in big trouble with the department.
#1 Cremated urn of ashes
This one I just can’t paraphrase. An anonymous hotel found, "An urn of cremated ashes, yes of a person. When contacted the son said ‘throw him in the dumpster’. We tracked down a daughter who was happy to accept." Strangely enough that same survey respondant also listed "human leg and hip bones from a doctor who does replacement surgeries." Truth is stranger than fiction.
How to Keep Your Items out of the Lost and Found
It seems to me, we have all need to spend a few extra minutes packing and double-checking before we leave behind something essential…or embarassing.
Staple it inside your suitcase, tuck it in your purse or duct tape it to your tailgate if you have to. Whatever works for you.
Have a great Up North Michigan vacation this summer. And may you, and your belongings, make it home safely.
Charming Carriage House still has Room at the Inn
When I roam around the county filling displays at hotels, motels, resorts and wineries I try to take a moment and chat with the owners and staff. I stopped this week at the Wellington Inn in Traverse City and was surprised to learn that there was still room available in the carriage house this summer. Since I’ve never taken a tour of the property I asked Barb if she’d mind showing me around.
The carriage house was the first building to be renovated when Barb and Hank Richel purchased the Inn in 1999. The care and attention to detail of the property is evident everywhere you look. From the well maintained exterior to the antiquities it holds, the carriage house, and the Inn next door, is a perfect Traverse City getaway.
There are two apartments located on the upper level of this former barn. Even as we entered the stairwell I couldn’t help but enjoy the collision of past and present. An antique original wallpaper mural guides us to the stairway and the apartments above. We opened the door to the first and walked into a casual comfortable place. The decor is French Country. Our view roamed from the tiny, but full-service period kitchen, to the living space and bright windows. There are two bedrooms which share one bath in this apartment. Each beautifully decorated with an attention to detail and nod to history and comfort. Guests leave their thanks and compliments in a notebook on the dresser for future dwellers to enjoy.
The second apartment is slightly larger, with 2 bedrooms and 2 baths. The light from the windows pours into the room and illuminates the Rishel’s attention to detail. Art Deco decor can be found throughout, from the fixtures to the artwork. And the condition of the pieces is amazing. The stamped velvet couch is vintage 1930s and it’s the origianal covering. The rooms are filled with antiques, many of which have been lovingly restored by Barb and Hank.
The Wellington Inn Bed & Breakfast is located in the heart of Traverse City. Guests are within walking distance of shopping, dining, galleries, the State Theater and of course, Grand Traverse Bay. Whether you stay in grand elegance at the historic 1905 Inn, or in pristine comfort at the carriage house, The Wellington Inn will not disappoint.
I doubt these apartments will last long, so contact The Wellington Inn today while there’s still room this summer. For more information on the Wellington Inn visit their website at www.wellingtoninn.com or give Barb a call at 877-968-9900.
The Wellington Inn’s Sixth Annual "Inn at Christmastime" December 5-7th
Experience an old fashioned Christmas at this beautifully restored 1905 neoclassical mansion in
December 5 & 6 from 5pm – 8pm
December 7 from 1pm – 4pm
Area florists and artisans have ‘decked the halls’ with a spectacular display of holiday designs and decorations.
- Tour the entire Mansion while enjoying holiday entertainment by local musicians.
- Enjoy refreshments provided by local businesses in the third floor ballroom.
- Many displays will be available for purchase through participating designers.
- Tickets are $15 at the door.
- Proceeds will benefit THE GRAND TRAVERSE HISTORICAL SOCIETY.
- Family portraits can be scheduled in advance with Windborne Photographic 231-946-2940
For more information call 231-922-9900 or visit www.WellingtonInn.com
Our congratulations go out to Russ Cole, general manager of the Best Western Four Seasons Resort in Traverse City for his recent honor as 2008 Hotelier of the Year. The award was presented by the Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association at their Driving Tourism 2008 conference in Grand Rapids.
With the renovation of the website Meal Tickets & Unusual Ideas® will finally offer advertising opportunities to area resorts. The unique card displays have always featured restaurants, activities and destinations in an effort to provide visitors with a great selection when they arrive in the area. But what about when they are planning their trip? One of the goals for the new website is to provide potential Traverse Area visitors with information before they arrive. And possibly the first decision they make is where to stay.
The new website provides area hotels, motels, and resorts of all sizes the opportunity to advertise with a banner ad on Mealtickets.com. When placed, an ad will appear on several pages throughout the site, thus increasing the exposure. More than 70 locations already receive advertising exposure on the website within the lodging listing. The banner ads will increase their visibilty and allow for the promotion of seasonal packages or special rates.
For more information on advertising with Meal Tickets & Unusual Ideas® visit the Advertise with Us page or call 231.275.6105.