Tax increase proposed for Jackson County visitors

Gulf Hills Hotel in Ocean Springs. (Photo source: WLOX)
Gulf Hills Hotel in Ocean Springs. (Photo source: WLOX)

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - South Mississippi's new tourism director says a small sales-tax increase will help keep Jackson County in the spotlight for tourists.

July of 2013 wasn't too long ago. That's when things changed for the Jackson County tourism industry.

"For the first time ever, the CVB has been able to represent those of us in Jackson County," said Donna Brown of the MS Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Brown is General Manager of Gulf Hills Hotel in an unincorporated area of Ocean Springs. Because of that, her customers have to pay the seven percent sales tax that the rest of unincorporated Jackson County pays.

"Another two percent paid by individuals coming to stay in our hotels will not hurt the locals at all," said Brown. That's the proposal made by CVB Executive Director, Renee Areng. She said that extra two percent would help fund Jackson County's representation on the CVB board.

"It's fairly common in most destinations. Jackson County, over the years, did not have a centralized tourism marketing effort, so this is bringing them into the game, if you will," said Areng.

She presented the idea to the Jackson County Board of Supervisors. With her were three supporters from the tourism industry, including Brown.

Brown said she didn't want to lose the three seats that the county currently takes up in the CVB.

"Why's Harrison County going to sell Jackson County without a voice, without individuals sitting there saying, 'Hey, look at us, look at us. We're here,'" said Brown.

Her hope is that the county can continue to be represented, because she says she no longer wants to be left behind.

"Yes, it can work and we do need to be a part of it," said Brown.

Board of Supervisors President Troy Ross said he was skeptical about any new taxes. But, if hotel owners are on board, he said he wouldn't rule out the possibility. The board could decide to include this proposal in its legislative agenda. The legislative session starts in early January.

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