State lawmakers pass bill to increase Savannah’s hotel/motel tax

Published: Mar. 28, 2023 at 4:17 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 28, 2023 at 4:55 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Hotel bills in Savannah could soon go up.

State lawmakers passed a bill Monday to increase the city’s hotel/motel tax. That’s an added charge on room rentals in the city.

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson and other city leaders have been pushing for this increase for several years.

But Chatham County’s state delegation hadn’t passed the bill until now.

A potential change on the way for hotel bills in the Hostess City.

A local delegation at the Georgia state house approving an increase to Savannah’s hotel/motel tax from 6 percent to 8 percent.

That means people could be paying more in taxes for room rentals in the city.

“It’s not putting the burden on the people of Savannah. But this money, the taxes, will only be from people that are going in our hotels,” Rep. Edna Jackson said.

Bill sponsor Representative Edna Jackson says the added tax money will be used to pay for tourism-based projects.

According to a resolution passed by Savannah’s city council in February 2021 under an eight percent hotel/motel tax. the city would get just over 37 percent of those tax dollars, visit Savannah would get roughly 33 percent the convention center would get 14 and nearly 15 percent would be used for “tourism product development.”

Those projects include renovations to the Water Works building which is near Enmarket Arena including a sidewalk and trail construction as well as millions of dollars in River Street improvements.

“We also need tourists to come in to help us so we will not have to show tax increases on the residents of the city. River Street has not been refurbished in a lot of years, a number of years,” Jackson said.

The bill had previously struggled to pass after the local hospitality industry voiced economic concerns.

But local tourism leaders recently told WTOC that the industry is now in agreeance with how the tax revenue will be spent.

Representative Jackson doesn’t expect the increase to impact the city’s tourism numbers saying the new rate will be the same as similar areas.

According to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs the hotel/motel tax rate is 8 percent in Macon.

On Tybee Island it’s 7 percent.

“You look at our surrounding areas, we’re just coming up to speed,” Jackson said.

In 2021 hotel/motel taxes generated more than 27.9 million dollars in Savannah.

The bill now heads to Governor Kemp’s desk for his signature.