- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 16, 2014

PASCAGOULA, Miss. (AP) - The Mississippi Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau has asked Jackson County supervisors for a 2 percent nightly occupancy tax on hotel rooms to support tourism.

Harrison and Hancock counties have heads-on-beds taxes in place that raise money to support the Mississippi Gulf Coast Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Jackson County does not.

Pascagoula, Moss Point and Ocean Springs have lodging taxes in their municipal areas. That money does not go to the Gulf Coast group.

“This is for funding to drive tourism visits to South Mississippi,” tourism board member Rich Westfall told Jackson County supervisors Monday.

“We will be seeking a local bill from the Legislature for a referendum next year on the occupancy tax and we’re looking for support from the supervisors to help us with that,” he said.

Westfall told supervisors that the 2 percent tax would bring in between $600,000 and $700,000 to help fund the tourism effort.

Board of Supervisors President Troy Ross said he was skeptical about any new taxes. But, if hotel owners are on board, he said he wouldn’t rule out the possibility. The board could decide to include this proposal in its legislative agenda. The legislative session starts in early January.

If approved by lawmakers and voters, the local occupancy tax would rise to 5 percent since it would be tacked on to existing room taxes. If passed, occupancy taxes would be 5 percent in Pascagoula and Moss Point, 4 percent in Ocean Springs and 2 percent in Gautier plus the unincorporated areas of Jackson County.

Westfall said Jackson County has 2,837 hotel beds and estimated that about 900 of those are in unincorporated areas.

The Mississippi Gulf Coast Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau was organized in 2013 to give the coast a unified voice in tourism marketing, eliminating the Harrison County Tourism Commission. It has a 15-member board with nine members from Harrison County and 3 each from Hancock and Jackson counties.


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