My name is Whitney Bergmann, I am writing representing the Montana Lodging and Hospitality Association, the Missoula Tourism Business Improvement District and Destination Missoula, the Missoula Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.
I want to respond to the opinion piece published on the Missoula Current on March 18, 2021, written by the Washington DC based Travel Technology Association (which represents Airbnb, Expedia, and more) regarding Montana Senate Bill 52, since it contains several misleading points.
Montana lodging operators and Montana tourism businesses support Senate Bill 52 and thank Senator Ellsworth for his leadership on this bill. We also applaud the bi-partisan Economic Affairs Interim Committee that recommended this measure for introduction in the 2021 session.
Our industry appreciates and enjoys a good relationship with the online travel agents that have been mentioned in this article. However, we are amazed that they would miscategorize this legislation and the suggestion this is a tax on travel agents – it is not. It is not even a new tax, it simply applies the same, existing tax rules for all travel partners.
Senate Bill 52 was drafted to modernize outdated language in lodging tax laws passed in 1987 and 2003. By updating our laws, we make sure that all businesses involved in collecting lodging and rental car taxes are in compliance and paying the existing accommodations taxes, and we provide the Montana Department of Revenue with clear language to fairly enforce existing measures.
Senate Bill 52 is a very good piece of legislation that supports existing tourism promotion programs as well as provides money to our state general fund. This cleanup of language ensures uniform application of existing law, and the result will be good for Montana’s economy, good for Montana businesses, and good for online travel platforms, who continue to see an uptick in tourists booking trips to our state.
We urge legislators and others to join us in supporting Senate Bill 52.
Whitney Bergmann is board chair of the Missoula Tourism Business Improvement District BID.
Cosigned: Montana Lodging and Hospitality Association; Missoula Tourism Business Improvement District; Destination Missoula