Tourist Commission sends value added back taxes issue to AG

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Report reveals increase in Natchitoches tourists

By Juanice Gray, jgray@natchitochestimes.com Natchitoches’ greatest acclaim, Steel Magnolias, now 30, is returning to theaters. Fathom Theaters will release the movie in its theaters across the nation this spring. Parkway Cinema in Natchitoches is not a part of the Fathom franchise and is excluded from that release, however, the theater has worked out a deal to show the movie Nov. 8-14, the anniversary of the movie’s actual release in 1989.

The Convention and Visitor’s Bureau is hoping to create some “…fun things to do that week,” according to Executive Director Arlene Gould. One idea is an armadillo cake contest and activities along the riverbank. Details to come as the plans progress.

A total 9,262 visitors signed the guestbook at the Natchitoches Convention and Visitors Bureau on Front Street. Of those, 3,451 were from Louisiana, 2,562 from Texas, 2,656 from other states and 593 were from abroad.

These numbers were released by the CVB in their annual report along with their hotel/motel occupancy tax numbers. In 2017, they collected $360,000. In 2018 those numbers increased by 12.5 percent to $405,000.

“We, as the tourist commission, are the taxing authority for the occupancy tax,” Executive Director Arlene Gould said. “We are a political subdivision of the state.”

That explains why the tourist commission is the entity pursuing the issue of non-payment of taxes on a value added package imposed at Chateau St. Denis Hotel. Gould said the Attorney General directed them to collect the back taxes. “We have tried to resolve this amicably,” she said. “We asked for the numbers (from the hotel main office and the Natchitoches Tax Assessor) in one of two ways. First was find out how much they owe by using the Value Added Package (VAP) revenue. It is 3 percent of their revenue. The second is the amount of the VAP package that was charged per room night. That would be 30 cents for each room, each night. We did not get those numbers.”

Gould said during their regular meeting Tuesday that they had also not gotten a response from the hotel’s home office. “We have exhausted all avenues. We’ve tried,” she said. The members voted to ask for a legislative audit to resolve the situation.

Gould said there is legislation in the upcoming session that clarifies the definition of a hotel, short term stay and air B&B that, if passed, will require all locations renting overnight rooms to pay occupancy taxes. The notice in its entirety is on page 5B in the public notices section of this edition.

Gould said their marketing strategy was working. Their traffic in print, website and social media all improved last year. A video outlining their efforts is available on their website and at www.natchitochestimes.com.

Chairman Lauren Sharplin spoke about the new videos available on their website, www.natchitoches.com. A Main Street success video is the newest addition to their collection.

CVB Director of Marketing and Communication Kelli West said those who visited the website looked at more than one page and that most were from the Dallas area.

Gould’s contract was renewed for one year.

January Occupancy Tax collections. 

The H/M Occupancy Tax collected for January is $45,058.56, less the admin fee of $1,351.76 for a net collection of $43,706.80.  This is $11,040.76 over 2018 and $3,144.84 over projected budget. P&L reflects total income of $48,344.23 and expenses of $41,362.80 for a net income of $6,981.43.