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Lodging tax $ help promote tourism in Kitsap County

Striving to attract hordes of tourists to the Kitsap Peninsula every year, county and city lodging tax dollars help offset the costs of making this happen.

The lodging tax, which is added to per room per night rates of all hotels and motels, is 4 percent in Kitsap County. The dollars accrued from this percentage are then pooled together and applied toward driving tourism up in the county, thus bringing in more people to stay at the local hotels and motels.

“Lodging tax dollars are from lodging facilities in the area,” said Chris Koebelin, general manager of the Silverdale Beach Hotel, one of the largest lodging facilities in Kitsap County. “The theory behind (lodging tax dollars) is essentially to promote tourism by bringing visitors to our county.”

The hotel-motel tax is imposed by cities and counties from the sale or charge of lodging. This tax also includes lodging at a hotel, rooming house, motel or trailer camp. The tax is then collected by the lodging facility and remitted to the Washington State Department of Revenue, which distributes the tax to the appropriate local government.

Each city has its own lodging tax dollars based on the facilities in that city. There are four city municipalities, Bremerton, Port Orchard, Poulsbo and Bainbridge Island and one county Lodging Tax Advisory Board. On the county Lodging Tax Advisory Board, there is one county commissioner, two members of an organization that have received funding and two members that contribute to lodging tax dollars. Each municipality determines how much of its money goes to which organizations and are made up of people who know the tourism industry.

Last year, the Bremerton Admiral Theatre received $130,000 in lodging tax dollars — $90,000 from the city of Bremerton and $40,000 from the county Lodging Tax Advisory Board, Bremerton symphony received $33,000, Kitsap Peninsula Visitor & Convention Bureau more than $182,000 and Port Orchard’s Fathoms O’Fun $11,000.

“(Lodging tax dollars) in its original form was to fund the Kingdome ... then they started getting a lot of requests from the peninsula,” said KPVCB Executive Director Grant Griffin. “Most places in the state have (a lodging tax) to level the playing field.”

Although the lodging tax helps generate revenue for tourism, that is the only place those dollars can be used. The funds must be used solely to pay for tourism promotion and for the acquisition and operation of tourism promotion, according to a state revenue guide. Griffin said a tourist is categorized as someone who travels here from at least 50 miles away.

Tourism promotion also is highlighted in the guide as activities and expenditures designed to increase tourism, including advertising, publicizing and distributing information for the purpose of attracting and welcoming tourists. This money also can be used for the salary and benefits of a city employee for the time spent promoting tourism.

“(Organizations) like the KPVCB gets a substantial amount because their sole job is to bring visitors to our county,” Koebelin said. “Whatever business we do all comes back to the county.”

Each municipality decides where the lodging tax dollars go. Koebelin, who serves on the county Lodging Tax Advisory Board, said tourist-related organizations will send in a proposal that includes the amount they want, why they want the money, a budget for what they would do with it, what they have done with past monies received and how they have used it to increase tourism.

“We go through the packets one-by-one,” Koebelin added. “We ask them what this money is for and how they will use it to bring in tourism.”

After the proposals have been reviewed, the municipalities decide on the amounts that various organizations will receive to promote tourism in their city and throughout the county.

“Lodging tax is one of the means where Kitsap County and our cities can invest in community non-profits, the arts and tourism,” said Central Kitsap Commissioner Josh Brown. “It benefits a lot of organizations.”

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