PANAMA CITY, FLA. — Panama City soon may be in the business of putting “heads in beds” if the push to establish a Tourist Development Tax, or bed tax, within the city limits is approved by voters this fall.
The Bay County Chamber of Commerce encouraged members at its monthly First Friday event to vote in favor of the measure, which the chamber first urged the city to adopt in November of 2013.
Jennifer Jones, executive director of the Bay Arts Alliance and member of the Panama City Tourist Development Tax Committee, presented facts and figures during the event outlining the potential impact of implementing a 5 percent bed tax on short-term accommodations within the city limits.
Jones said Panama City’s 1,500 hotel rooms have the potential to generate an estimated $1.4 million in bed tax revenue annually, a number based on the roughly $26 million in room revenues reported by hoteliers last year.
Citing data from Smith Travel Research, Jones said overnight stays have been increasing in Panama City over the last three years, with July and March accounting for the top two revenue months.
“The bottom line is, if we have heads in beds, we can collect tax revenue to promote more heads in beds, to promote the community,” Jones said. “The money can be spent to enhance and promote arts and culture or the historical identity of Panama City. It can also be used to promote Panama City as a tourism destination through marketing, sales, sports marketing and visitors centers.”
In addition to Bay Chamber officials, Jones was joined onstage by dozens of others in support of the measure, including representatives from the Panama City Beach Chamber of Commerce, Bay Arts Alliance, Bay County Commission, Bay County Association of Realtors, Panama City Commission, Panama City Downtown Improvement Board, Panama City Beach Tourist Development Council and a group of Panama City hoteliers.
“It is limited on what it can do, but what it can do is very impactful,” Jones said of the tax. “There’s a lot of money on the table that we can leverage to enhance what we’ve got, bring more people into the community and make a much bigger pie for those of us who are living and working here.”
Panama City residents are scheduled to vote on the measure Sept. 30.
-- The News-Herald