Miller
Miller

The breathtaking scenery and the memories will still be free, but visitors to York County could soon be paying a 5 percent tax for the pillows beneath their heads.

York's hotel tax would increase from 3 percent to 5 percent under legislation sitting in the House Tourism and Recreational Development Committee. The state must pass the bill, introduced in March by the entire York County House delegation, to enable the county to adopt the new tax.

The tax currently generates about $1.5 million per year, with the change expected to increase the annual collection by about $700,000, to $2.2 million.

Money paid by the overnight visitors is allocated to tourism promotion efforts in order to generate more tourism money, said Anne Druck, president of the York County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

She said county hoteliers have signed letters of support for the increase, as have county commissioners.

County commissioner Doug Hoke said commissioners won't vote on the increase until it passes the House, but all three men on the board previously voted to seek the extra 2 percent.

Promotion: Hoke, who also serves on the bureau's board, said he is in favor of the proposal because it would provide more income to promote tourism and market York County to visitors.

Under a previous 10-year agreement that expired in 2010, all of the hotel tax money generated was given to the bureau for allocation.

The proposed 5-year agreement would split the tax, with 53 percent given to the bureau, 14 percent given to the York County Agricultural Society (which owns the York Expo Center), and the remaining 33 percent allocated to grants to organizations such as York County Heritage Trust and the York County Rail Trail Authority.

Under the agreement, Susquehanna Gateway Heritage Area would get $82,500 per year in a dedicated grant. The Heritage Trust would be allocated $80,000 per year, with the Rail Trail Authority getting $70,000, and the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad would take home $20,000.

After those grants are designated, a committee would distribute the remaining money to other organizations that apply for grants for increasing tourism, according to the agreement.

Hoke said he's happy with the "split" and thinks the allocations represent a good mix of tourism efforts in the county.

Druck said marketing and promoting York pays off, citing the example of the Blue Chip Basketball USA Invitational that tourism officials brought to York Expo last weekend.

At least one local restaurateur said the event "saved the 4th of July week," which is typically dismal, she said.

Neighbors: State Rep. Ron Miller, R-Jacobus, authored the legislation. He said he's hopeful it will move out of committee and to the House floor for a vote after the legislative session resumes in September.

He said tourism is an economic driver and, while York County lies between several tourism "hot-spots," it needs more promotion than Gettysburg and Lancaster because it doesn't have as many "historical draws."

Adams and Lancaster counties have a 5 percent hotel tax, with state legislators recently approving Adams' increase from 3 to 5 percent.

"We're not on even footing, but this gets us closer," he said. "We do a good job of competing right now, but we could do better."

Miller said officials and hoteliers don't expect the extra 2 percent to dissuade visitors from spending the night.

-- Reach Christina Kauffman at ckauffman@yorkdispatch.com.