The last time the Coliseum expanded its convention center, tourism commission money paid for the project. That expansion opened in 1997. This time, the onus is being placed squarely on Harrison County hotels.
The Gulfport Days Inn is eight miles from the coliseum. Because of the distance, Coliseum guests rarely stay in one of these rooms.
Daniel Chang owns the Days Inn. On Wednesday, his industry opposed a three percent hotel tax increase to expand the Coliseum Convention Center. "But personally I feel that the more business that comes to the coast because of convention expansion, you benefit everybody," the hotel owner said.
Chang's willingness to add three percent to his customer's hotel bill was not shared by San Naqvi. "Definitely it will affect us," the Biloxi hotel manager said. Naqvi's Super 8 is just a mile-and-a-half from the convention center. Yet his hotel gets very little convention business. "Our main clientele is the seniors, and they're very cost conscious," he said. "So I don't know why they're putting the whole burden on the hotels."
If the legislature gives its blessing, Harrison County hotel guests would have a 13% tax added to room rates. Here's how that compares to other cities around the region. In Mobile, hotels guests pay 10%. In New Orleans, the tax is 13%. It's 14% in Atlanta, and 17% in Houston.
So do those tax numbers impact a hotel? It depends who you ask. "This increase is going to affect them, definitely it will," Naqvi said. "They'll look for somewhere else. They won't come to Biloxi. They'll try to stay somewhere else."
Back in Gulfport, Daniel Chang was a lot more optimistic about the coliseum expansion, and the additional hotel tax. "I don't feel our guests would be hindered because of three percent," he said.
So far, the convention center expansion has support from Harrison County supervisors, and the tourism commission. But that may not be enough support to convince lawmakers that they must approve the expansion bill and the hotel tax hike.