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New law impacts short-term vacation rentals

Published: Jul. 1, 2021 at 4:52 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - The Hostess City is preparing to welcome thousands of visitors for the holiday weekend all looking for places to stay.

But a new state law could mean they’re shelling out some extra money depending on where they book their vacation.

The new law tacks on new fees for anyone renting through websites like Airbnb and VRBO. A $5-per-night lodging tax that hotels and motels already charge their guests.

The president and CEO of the Tourism Leadership Council in Savannah says the new law levels the playing field between short term vacation rentals and traditional lodging.

“In a couple of ways, it does. First off, for the first time, the $5 hotel/motel fee will now be applicable to all short term vacation rentals and inns that have fewer than five rooms,” Michael Owens said.

Another component of the new law also says short-term vacation rentals also have to pay local excise tax, something Owens says has already been happening in Savannah.

“We have got really extraordinary compliance with short term vacation rentals operating here remitting all of the appropriate taxes. A lot of that has to do with the work that we did with the City and stakeholders several years ago,” Owens said.

Owens adds the new fees for STVRs aren’t a tax on the businesses, rather, on the visitor.

“Of course that visitor is helping in our community, generating millions and millions of dollars that pay for roads locally, pays for police officers, firefighters, essential services that we all utilize,” he said. A couple visiting from the Dallas area stayed in two vacation rentals over the past week through Airbnb. They say a new fee won’t keep them from booking through the service again.

“Absolutely not. We had a great experience, we like Airbnb. The privacy and being able to cool as well,” Bev Ozanne said.

“So, that’s the trade off, is when we have an Airbnb we can do our own cooking for breakfast and lunch,” Steve Ozanne said.

So, what kind of a revenue driver is hotel motel tax for Savannah? According to the most recent available report, the city collected $22.5 million in 2019.

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