Transient Lodging Tax currently up for discussion in Forest Grove

Patrons of Forest Grove's five hotels, such as McMenamins Grand Lodge, may have to pay an additional 2 percent tax. A Forest Grove committee has come up with a way to pump up local tourism.

Representatives from local businesses, hotels and tourist attractions have been meeting for the last several months to discuss a Transient Lodging Tax (TLT), which would be added onto patrons' bills at local hotels.

The tax would generate an extra $80,000 a year to promote tourism in the area and would be added onto existing lodging taxes imposed by the county and state, which now total 10.8 percent.

Leaders of the proposal are suggesting a 2 percent local tax, which would bump the total TLT up to 12.8 percent, well below neighboring cities that have similar taxes (5 percent in Portland and 4 percent in Beaverton).

The city of Forest Grove would be able to keep 100 percent of the local tax money, 70 percent of which must be directed toward promoting tourism.

Tentative plans show that $78,000 of the $80,000 collected in Forest Grove will be used specifically for promoting tourism.

Forest Grove Best Western manager Shalini Patel is in favor of the Forest Grove tax. "We are excited," Patel said. "I'm hoping the tax will bring in some new guests and different kinds of guests." She doesn't think her guests will mind such a small increase in their bill.

Currently, a lot of the hotel's guests come to town for Pacific University events and she'd like to attract more varied visitors who want to visit wineries, use bike trails or stop in to explore on their way to the coast.

Guests of Forest Grove's five hotels, as well as Airbnb and VRBO destinations will be subject to the tax.

Forest Grove Economic Development Manager Jeff King hopes the funds will help capitalize on the area's burgeoning attractions, including local wineries and breweries, restaurants, scenic bike routes, wetlands, Henry Hagg Lake, the Tillamook Forest, and u-pick farms and farm stands, as well as the city's unique events like the chalk art festival, Concours d'Elegance and holiday festivities.

King hopes the tax will support existing businesses, especially during the off season.

There are a lot of undeveloped tourism promotion opportunities, he said. These opportunities range from a potential festival showcasing local features to travel packages that tie together different stops like the "Fruit Loop" route in Hood River.

The money would likely fund a part-time tourism coordinator position, marketing, investments in Forest Grove's physical assets that support tourism, and special projects or events.

The tax is not a sure thing. The TLT committee will meet several more times to hammer out the details before they present a final proposal to the city council, which will then have to vote in an ordinance to enact the tax.

King hopes a new staff member will continue to build on his tourism promotion efforts. "We don't want to continue remaining the best kept secret."

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