Hotel Tax to Pay for Marketing Tulsa to Tourists May be Headed to Court

Nov 8, 2018

Credit Oklahoma Tourism

Tulsa city councilors agreed to a tourism improvement district spanning the entire city, but it’s not a done deal.

The tourism improvement district, or TID, would levy a 3 percent tax on hotels and motels with 110 rooms or more, generating around $2.3 million dollars a year. While many hotel owners say Tulsa needs that money to step up marketing efforts and catch up to regional competitors like Wichita, attorney Trevor Henson said he represents 21 affected hotels opposed to the proposal.

"If we proceed as it currently sits, as the bill is currently written, I’m supposed to proceed with a lawsuit to go through district court and end this," Henson said.

Opponents of the TID said hotels need more representatives on an 11-member board of advisors that will oversee how the money is spent and that they weren't consulted as the city and VisitTulsa came up with it.

Promise Hotels President and CEO Pete Patel said the district has been two years in the making.

"I think there’s been a lot of input into this, a lot of meetings, and if anybody says that they haven’t had an opportunity to give enough input, well, two years — I know the city moves pretty slow, but we’re moving probably a little slower than that," Patel said.

Some supporters said the TID will have a wider benefit than traditional tourist industry businesses. Production company owner Julie Yeabower said film and music are lumped in with tourism, and they’ve been hurt by the closings of the state film office in Tulsa and the city’s office of film and music.

"So, we really need the extra dollars to promote this. Our music industry is absolutely exploding, and I hate it when I hear people call us the next Austin. I don’t want to be the next Austin. I’m a lifelong Tulsan. I want to be Tulsa, Oklahoma," Yeabower said.

The TID would affect 33 hotels in Tulsa. It would not apply to those owned by tribes. Hotels and motels with fewer than 110 rooms could opt into the assessment.