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Bentleyville hotel lowers prices in response to tax

| Saturday, April 20, 2002

While other Washington County hotel owners decided against rate cuts in the wake of a 3 percent county hotel tax, one hotel cut its prices to remain competitive with out-of-county hotels.

Bentleyville Best Western Garden Inn Hotel Manager Holly Rollison said individual room rates did not change at her hotel, but group rates dropped about $4 a room.

The Washington County Commissioners imposed the levy last year.

Rollison said Best Western had to change to keep attracting church, youth and senior citizen groups that regularly use the hotel.

"You go up (Interstate) 70 a little ways and it isn't Washington County," Rollison said. "So, it can get competitive when you have to adjust your rates to absorb that cost if you want to keep the business."

Notices of the tax were posted at the Best West- ern after the levy was approved.

"We did it as a courtesy to our customers," Rollison said. "People do ask, because it is itemized in our bill."

Rollison said business has not been affected by the tax.

Rooms that accomodate two people at the Bentleyville Best Western are about $84 a night during the June to September summer season, and $70 a night the rest of the year, Rollison said.

At peak times, rates for standard rooms increase to $94 a night, Rollison said.

Group rates are determined by number of rooms rented, Rollison said.

Other hotel managers agreed that the hotel tax has become common in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Chris Chesebrough, manager of Springhill Suites in Washington, said rates have not changed business levels, and that the Washington County tax is minimal.

"You're talking almost double in downtown Pittsburgh," he said.

Chesebrough said Spinghill has not lost customers because of the tax.

"We've taken it pretty much in stride," he said. "We announced it to the guests for a few days and everything was fine after that."

Rooms at Spring Hill range from $79 a night to $145 a night, and rates vary throughout the year.

Judy Lohr, manager of the Carlton Motel in Somerset Township, said the tax should come as no surprise to travelers.

"There are so many places that have it already that its no shock to anybody traveling," she said.

The Carlton charges $39.95 a night for a double occupancy room.

The tax did not affect rates at the Hampton Inn in Washington, General Manager Frankie Dittmar said.

The Hampton charges $71 a night for regular rooms.

Washington County Commissioner John Bevec said the commissioners Thursday attended a ground breaking ceremony for a multi-purpose building at the Washington County Fair-grounds.

Hotel tax dollars will help to pay for the building.

Chesebrough said the tax dollars for that kind of project would help to attract outsiders.

"Hopefully, used in the right way, it will help attract business to Washington County," he said. "The more the merrier. Hopefully, it is something that is going to be beneficial for the county."

Bevec said the fairgrounds project is proof the tax has reaped benefits, and that tourist activity should increase because of it.

"I think it's a good thing because this is a unique tax because you are taxing the people that are passing through the county," he said. "Tourism is the second largest business or industry in the state."

The Westmoreland County Commissioners recently passed a 3 percent hotel tax.

Allegheny County jumped the hotel tax from 5 percent to 7 percent in 1999.

Fayette County does not have a hotel tax.

Bevec predicted room taxes will become common practice in southwestern Pennsyl-vania.

"All counties have it or have the option to enact it," he said. "Very shortly, I believe that all counties will have (at least) a 3 percent tax."

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