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Bend room tax reversal: Proposed hike tabled

By Kandra Kent
Published On: Jan 30 2013 04:03:35 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 28 2013 09:32:01 PM CST

NewsChannel 21's Kandra Kent talks to Visit Bend and hotel officials about the controversy over a proposed room tax hike.

BEND, Ore. -

Central Oregon hotel operators said at a private meeting Monday they didn't want a room-tax hike, causing the proponents, Visit Bend, to back down and table a proposal that was headed to the city council later in the week.

Visit Bend had planned on formally proposing a 2 percent tax increase on the city's transient room tax. That would have bumped it from 9 to 11 percent.

"(Hotels') customers care about every dollar now, and by increasing the overall cost to their customer, by increasing the room tax, which would take it up to 11 percent, they're very, very concerned that that's going to cost them business," Wayne Purcell said Monday.

Purcell is one of the owners of The Riverhouse in Bend, and he put together a meeting for area hotel operators and Visit Bend after he said not enough lodging officials knew of the tourism agency's plans.

Visit Bend officials said they went to the meeting confident that their proposal would be supported by most, as it would have paid to boost tourism marketing to residents in Washington and Northern California.

"We were very excited about this," said board member Ben Perle.  "We thought this would be a very positive thing, kind of the next step in the tourism evolution for Bend."

Perle is also regional vice-president of operations for the Oxford Hotel Group, which has a hotel in Bend. He said many operators Visit Bend approached were on board -- but it turns out more hotel officials were not.

Visit Bend decided to drop the proposal after the hotel meeting, deciding as a board shortly after.

"We just didn't feel that we had the support of the lodging partners," Perle said of the decision.

About 40 people attended the private meeting, and Purcell told NewsChannel 21 that most of them were against the tax hike and felt they had been left out of the loop by Visit Bend.

"Some hoteliers were part of the process, but there wasn't an open meeting among hotel operators to really get their feedback," Purcell said.

Purcell said that's why he decided to hold a meeting for everyone in the industry, saying he hoped the city wouldn't rush into any sudden decisions.

For Visit Bend, the outcome was surprising and disappointing.

"People are very passionate about this issue," he said.  "It was clear that some of these lodging operators had heard about it through the grapevine. We had talked to many, we didn't get to everyone. They didn't want to support it, and we have to listen to their voice."

City councilors were expected to take up the issue on Wednesday, and would have ultimately decided whether to put it on the May ballot.

Perle said the additional tax would have raised nearly $600,000 for tourism marketing and another $250,000 for the city's general fund.

But to Purcell, it's not the right time to put an extra burden on visitors.

"We've been in a difficult time, and we're still in a difficult time, and I would not like to increase the cost to my customers right now," he said.

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