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Local Lodging Taxes During and After the Pandemic  

Author:  Tom Hazinski.; Justin Marlowe.

Source: Volume 44, Number 01, Spring 2023 , pp.45-64(20)

Municipal Finance Journal

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This paper examines the structure, recent and expected performance, and fiscal implications of the local lodging tax. Lodging taxes have become a uniquely important and interesting local revenue source as the pandemic has restructured many long-standing assumptions about the relationship between place and economic activity. Recent hotel revenue performance—a key proxy for lodging tax revenues—varies considerably across regions. Markets focused primarily on leisure travel have recovered to, and often exceeded, their pre-pandemic levels, whereas markets focused on commercial travel have generally not returned to their pre-pandemic levels. This leisure vs. commercial market distinction is also a strong predictor of hotel revenue recovery since the pandemic. Although local lodging taxes are a comparatively small share of general local revenues, they have noteworthy local fiscal implications. In many jurisdictions, they are equivalent to more than one-quarter of total non-property tax revenues. We also find that lodging taxes support roughly $14 billion in outstanding municipal debt, including several large bond issues in markets where lodging tax revenues have recovered slowly.

Keywords: Local lodging tax, leisure vs. commercial market, telework, e-commerce, COVID-19 pandemic

Affiliations:  1: HVS Convention, Sports & Entertainment; 2: Harris School of Public Policy.

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