Higher Hotel Tax Gets Mixed Review From Tourists

Hotels and motels in Harrison County rang in the New Year with a tax hike.

Voters approved the two percent increase back in November to pay for an expansion and improvements at the coast coliseum and convention center.

"For the New Year, we just jumped in our car and took off. No destination," said Victor Acevado of Miami, as he prepared to check out of a Biloxi hotel Monday morning.

Acevado and his family and friends rang in the New Year on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. A clerk at the hotel let him know about the higher room tax.

"At first it was 10 percent. Then the lady said it went up to like 12 percent. I guess that's fair for being the coast. 'Cause in Miami it's like that also," he said.

A combined birthday-New Year's celebration brought Marge Burge and her two daughters to the coast from Jacksonville. The frequent visitors didn't notice or mind the higher room tax.

"No, I'm sorry. I guess not, I don't pay that much attention to it," Phyllis Davenport admitted, saying they had a great time on the coast, regardless of how much the room tax cost.

Ralph Lane tries to spot the best bargain when he's hunting hotel rooms. He lives near another tourist spot, Branson Missouri, where the room tax is around eight percent.

"I just try and get as cheap as I can get," said Lane, laughing.

Mark Hanjiev has strong feelings about a 12 percent hotel tax. He says gouging the tourists isn't a good idea.

"Yeah, I think that's high," he said quickly.

"We've got eight percent over there, in Oklahoma," he added.

It will take some time to see if the higher hotel tax is enough to keep any tourists away.

The money from the higher hotel tax will help fund a $68 million expansion at the convention center. The referendum to allow the tax increase needed at least 60 percent from voters. It received 61 percent at the polls in November.