New Orleans Hotel Tax Revenue Soars As City's Tourism Booms

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Tourism in New Orleans is booming, and money collected from the city's hotel occupancy tax is on pace to reach a five-year high.

         The city could earn more than $43 million this year, with tax revenues predicted to continue to rise next year and beyond, The Times-Picayune’s Jennifer Larino reports.

         Jeff Anding, director of external affairs for the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the city is benefiting from unprecedented tourism growth, not just from conventions and meetings but also from leisure travelers.

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         "New Orleans is trending right now," Anding said.

         Anding said officials need to make sure money is spent to keep streets safe and maintain the French Quarter so that the city can maintain its tourism momentum.

         In October, the city will vote on a quarter-cent sales tax on French Quarter businesses to pay for more police patrols in the historic neighborhood.

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         This follows a 1.75 percent hotel room charge Louisiana lawmakers approved in 2013 to generate money for tourism marketing and citywide improvements.

         Some analysts, though, have expressed their concern about these special taxes.

         A 2013 Bureau of Governmental Research report argued that these taxes cut into the city's tax capacity without considering pressing needs such as sewer and water system upgrades.

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         The bureau's director, Peter Reichard, declined to comment directly on the recent rise of hotel occupancy tax revenues or the upcoming French Quarter tax vote but said concerns from the 2013 report remain.

         "These taxes come up one by one in isolation, and nobody is really considering the big picture and how they fit in," Reichard said.

         Visitors to New Orleans climbed to 9.52 million last year, closer to the 10.1 million record reached in 2004.

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