Rooms to let will go up $1.50 cents for a $100 room, if a new tax on lodging is passed at the next meeting of the Whitesburg City Council.
At the council’s November meeting, Mayor James Wiley Craft proposed to add a one and a half percent tax to receipts from bed and breakfasts in the Whitesburg city limits. Craft’s announcement came near the end of the meeting and there were no objections to his proposal. However, no vote was taken and the mayor said he would have the proposal drafted and ready to add as an amendment at the next meeting.
Craft said that as far as he knows there are at least 12 bed-and-breakfast facilities, including at least 10 associated with Airbnb in Whitesburg. Airbnb is a trade name that represents a membership organization that provides booking service and advertises on-line for bed and breakfasts that belong to it. There were several bed and breakfasts in the area that were in business before the Airbnb service was incorporated in 2009. Craft said there were Airbnb lodgings listed in Whitesburg and a number of bed-and-breakfast lodgings as well. In order for the city tax to apply, the establishments must be in the city limits.
Fred Hall, who owns two Airbnbs in the Upper Bottom, said doesn’t think the tax will affect him, and is something that needs to be supported.
“I think it will help the city in its endeavor to improve,” Hall said, adding that with the tourism efforts that are underway now, he believes business for bed and breakfasts here will improve.
Letcher County already imposes a three percent transient room tax on all lodging, including both bed and breakfasts and hotels or motels. Money collected from that tax is used to fund the county tourism commission. Craft said proposed city tax is purposefully low because the city wants bed and breakfasts to succeed here. He said money from the tax will go into the general fund, but will be used mostly to pay for tourism events and promotions.
“It won’t break the bank,” Craft said. “It’s not much, but it will help.”
Airbnb, Inc. is a website for booking rooms and tourism experiences, mainly home stays. The company acts as a broker for owners and takes commissions from each booking. The Wikipedia site says the company started in San Francisco, where rent is very high, after its founders put an air mattess in their living room and offered it for rent to help offset cost of their rent. Its original name was AirBedandBreakfast.com.
Airbnb receives a three percent commission from hosts for every booking, and six to twelve percent from guests. Most bed and breakfasts in Letcher County range from $79 to $110 for a one-night stay, and many are in private homes.