Re “Get rid of Myrtle Beach council members and useless tourism tax” letter by Ann H. Dunham.
The letter writer raises an important question: Has the Tourism Development Fee (TDF), implemented seven years ago, positively impacted our local tourism industry? Unfortunately, she draws her conclusion from incorrect data, incomplete analysis and misleading comparisons.
To start, the correct figure for Horry County 2012 accommodations tax (A-tax) collections is $17.8 million, not $18.3 million – an error that leads the author to underestimate the growth in local tourism.
The writer chose to ignore the first three years of record growth in tourism after the TDF was implemented. Local A-tax collections increased 29 percent during some of the most challenging economic times our community has ever faced and should not be overlooked.
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In addition to errors, the writer centers her comparison on the Spring of 2012, a base year that includes millions of dollars of back taxes paid by the timeshare industry to local governments. These payments were made for several prior years and skew the annual comparison. Why the author chooses to compare to this year without acknowledging the discrepancy in her analysis is unclear, rendering her claims misleading at best.
To understand the impact of the TDF on lodging revenues, a simple approach is to compare current A-tax collections to those collected pre-TDF. According to the South Carolina Treasurer’s Office, Horry County A-tax collections increased $4.8 million between fiscal years 2009 and 2015. This figure, which stems from a 2 percent tax on tourists, represents an annual increase of $240 million in lodging revenues. Simply stated, for every $1 of TDF invested in tourism promotion, lodging revenues increased $12. This represents a superb 12:1 return on investment.
Oddly, the author chooses to consider only A-tax collections, ignoring several key indicators that serve to measure the growth of our tourism industry. For example, she fails to acknowledge the growth in hospitality fees of 35.3 percent and airport deplanements of 23.3 percent since the TDF was implemented. Moreover, she ignored the most obvious comparison, the TDF itself, which has grown 26.5 percent since its inception.
Accurate data is vital to drawing relevant comparisons; readers, residents and taxpayers deserve nothing less. All relevant metrics demonstrate our local tourism industry is growing, and the TDF is one of many reasons for that growth. This is good news for our local businesses, their employees, and the many residents who enjoy the tax benefits of a healthy, growing tourism industry. Is the TDF working? Based on the facts: “Yes!”
We believe strongly in transparency and accountability and hold ourselves to nothing less. Readers who want detailed information can see a quarterly report of all TDF expenditures online at www.MyrtleBeachAreaMarketing.com.
The writer is president and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.