City revises tourism tax priorities

Emphasis on marketing, extending one-day events

New guidelines and priorities for spending lodging tax funds received final approval from the Langley City Council last week. The guidelines are to be posted on the city website this week.

A new evaluation system ranks tourism-related projects submitted for grants that are paid with the lodging tax collected at city hotels and motels.

Funding categories include tourism marketing, marketing and operations of special events or festivals, and operations and capital expenditures of tourism-related facilities owned or operated by the city of Langley.

The Langley ad hoc tourism committee, comprised of government, lodging and restaurant representatives, developed a scoring system as a way to rate applicants.

Each criteria is worth a certain number of points for a total of 150 points. For example, up to 15 points could be rewarded if the project dovetails with an existing event, encouraging visitors to stay overnight.

Increasing visitation to Langley during the shoulder season (October to May) is worth 10 points.

In the past, the council discussed and debated the requests during a council meeting and awarded the funds.

The council, however, decided that the applications should be judged by a specific criteria.

Langley City Council member Dominique Emerson said cities with less than 10,000 in population aren’t required under law to have a committee to make recommendations about the awarding of funds.

To develop the criteria and point system, comment was taken at public hearings and the committee studied evaluation protocol of other communities.

The approach is similar to the one used by the county, Emerson said.

The money is raised by a tax on lodging and is earmarked under state law for “promotion of tourism or construction and operation of tourism-related facilities,” according to the state Department of Revenue.

Emerson recommended the council disband the committee that created the new evaluation system and appoint a new ad hoc tourism committee to judge applications.

Final decisions are made by the city council based on committee recommendation.

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