Local businesses may see boost with possible hotel room rate increase

TRI-CITIES, Wash. - A small hike to hotel costs is coming to the Tri-Cities. It's just a 50-cent hike, but it translates to millions in the benefits to you.

Christine Jones took over Rosy's Ice Cream and Diner nearly five months ago. It's just a short walk from hotels along the waterfront in Richland. The new business owner has learned quickly how tourists make a difference to her success.

"They refer a ton of business over to us, that is a huge part of our business. I would say 30 to 40-percent," said Christine Jones.

And that business is expected to grow. The Tri-Cities Visitor and Convention Bureau has a plan to raise the hotel-motel room tax per night by 50-cents. That money will pay for two salaries. Those positions will focus on bringing more people here for vacation.

"Positive news is that it's not just great for the hotels, it's great for the entire Tri-Cities region," said Tri-Cities Visitor and Convention Bureau President Kris Watkins.

Industry experts believe we could see another 25-hundred hotel rooms booked in the Tri-Cities in the coming year. Along with more than 200-thousand impressions. That means new eyes in magazines. That could equal more than half-a-million dollars in our area. By 2015, those numbers will all grow against to nearly an additional million dollars spent in the Tri-Cities, at places like Rosy's.

"We think of ourselves as an attraction in the Tri-Cities," said Jones.

Officials tell me they hope to see more than 70-thousand rooms booked by the end of next year.

"To keep our destination top of their mind, top of the awareness of what a great place it is to visit," said Watkins.

And with more visitors, business owners like Christine can hope for business to boom.

"This is going to be huge for us and if this would up business, 20-30 percent, it will be huge," said Jones.

All by charging 50 cents more a night. Local hotels are the ones that put forward the idea of raising the tax. They say it's in line with other hotel charges across the state. If approved, the higher rate would kick in next April.