Tourism leaders, lawmakers discuss legislation

By Sunni Blevins - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Virginia's tourism leaders are facing off against lawmakers.  They want to make sure the tourism industry is getting a fair shake when it comes to state and federal policy.  A tourism summit focusing on industry trends and legislation was held today in Richmond.

Tourism brings in $19 billion a year to Virginia, so it's no surprise that so many people are invested in it's success.

Katie Hellebush with the Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association says, "if you think about all the different businesses that you go to when preparing for a vacation and then when you actually go on vacation, then it's quite a few."

Several pieces of legislation being debated right now could have a major impact.  The lodging industry is concerned about a bill called the Internet Travel Tax Fairness Act.

The bill would give businesses like Expedia a significant tax break or potentially even an exemption for rooms booked online through travel websites rather than directly from a hotel.

If passed, it could mean a huge loss of tax revenue for state and local governments, and that's scaring lodging leaders.

Kimberly Miles with the American Hotel & Lodging Association says, "it really comes down to who should pay the taxes.  We fear that then our hotels in our membership, as well as across the country, are really facing some issues as far as being at a marketing competitive disadvantage as far where they place their hotel rooms, and their own hotel sites will really be at a higher cost just because of a tax issue."

Tourism leaders also have a close eye on healthcare laws that would require restaurants to put nutritional information on menus.

That would cost the food service industry time and money.

Hellebush says, "once the regulations are developed, probably next March, restaurants will only have 60 days to comply, and that's quite a short period of time for them to switch over all their menu, menu boards and that sort of thing."

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