Tower at Fort Vancouver in the snow
Photo of Main Street looking south from the Kiggins Theatre
Crowd at the Friday Night Movie in the Park

2016 Lodging Tax Grant Program Guidelines

Goal

To invest in facilities, events and activities that increase overnight and day-visitors to the City of Vancouver and result in increased tourism-related revenues.

Background

State law (RCW 67.28.180) allows municipalities to impose up to a 4 percent lodging tax on stays of less than 30 days at hotels, motels, bed & breakfasts, campgrounds and RV parks. Fifty percent of the City of Vancouver’s annual lodging tax income is dedicated to underwriting the debt service on the downtown hotel/convention center. The remaining 50 percent is allocated to capital support for the convention center and to community and City projects through a competitive grant program.


State Requirements

Authorized uses for lodging taxes are:

  • Tourism marketing including operation of a destination marketing organization (DMO);
  • Marketing and operation of special events and festivals designed to attract tourists;
  • Operations and capital expenditures of tourism-related facilities owned or operated by a municipality or by a public facilities district;
  • Operations of tourism-related facilities owned or operated by non-profit organizations.


Program requirements include:

  • Organizations eligible to receive the funds are municipalities, DMOs or non-profit organizations (which includes main street organizations, lodging associations and chambers of commerce).
  • A Lodging Tax Advisory Committee (LTAC) that reviews applications and makes funding recommendations to the City Council. The LTAC is appointed by the City Council. It must consist of an equal number of lodging tax generators (hotel, motel, etc.) and potential lodging tax users and be chaired by a City Councilmember.  
  • The LTAC makes recommendations on which applications to fund and at what amounts. The City Council can choose to fund or not fund the individual applications and only at the recommended amount.
  • All applicants, including municipalities, must follow the same application process.


Lodging Tax Program Priorities

The City’s priority for lodging tax funds is supporting the debt service and capital needs of the hotel/convention center. In the event there are lodging tax funds excess to the needs of the convention center, the City’s priorities are:

  1. Capital improvements to city-owned tourism related facilities including support for visitor infrastructure such as signage, restrooms and transportation
  2. Operations of non-profit and city-owned/operated tourism related facilities
  3. Tourism promotion activities by the City, the Tourism Bureau or other non-profits
  4. Operation and/or marketing of special events that will attract tourists and which are sponsored by a non-profit organization or the City


City Grant Guidelines

  • Organizations may submit more than one application each year but there must be a separate application form for each project/activity.
  • Matching funds are not required but are encouraged as a sign of community support and organizational commitment.
  • Grants must be for a minimum of $5,000.
  • Special events/festivals, capital projects or facilities requesting operating funds must be inside the City limits. This restriction does not apply to destination marketing proposals.
  • Special events/festivals:
    • Must be sponsored by a non-profit or the City;
    • Grants funds can be used for operational expenses, including marketing and promotion, with the exception of salaries and/or benefits for event organizers or other key staff and insurance. Funds may be used for security staff, ticket takers, traffic control, etc.;
    • Funds are available beginning in January and must be spent within the calendar year.
    • For existing special events – in operation for more than three years- proposals must be for expansion or enhancements for the event and those expansions and/or enhancements must be clearly defined and measurable.
  • All advertising must acknowledge the City of Vancouver as sponsor


Criteria for Grant Awards

Priority will be given to lodging tax grant proposals that:

  • Demonstrate potential to result in overnight stays by tourists in lodging facilities within the City of Vancouver or to attract day visitors from outside Clark County.
  • Provide, maintain, operate or enhance City-owned tourism related facilities or infrastructure.
  • Promote Vancouver and/or events, activities and places in the city to potential tourists from outside the region.
  • Have a demonstrated potential to result in economic benefit to Vancouver. Successful proposals will show specific strategies to draw visitors.
  • Provide funds from sources other than lodging tax funding.
  • Are sponsored by an organization that has a successful track record with similar projects or events.


Reporting

All lodging tax fund recipients must submit a report to the City describing the results of the project, program or event. For events/festivals, report must be submitted within 90-days after the event. For all other projects or facilities, the report is submitted annually, due by January 31. Per state requirements, report must include the following information:

The number of people attending the event or visiting the facility;

  • The number of people attending the event or visiting the facility who stayed overnight in paid accommodations;
  • For day visitors, the number of people attending the event or visiting the facility who came fifty miles or more, one-way, from their residence or business; or
  • The number of people attending the event or visiting the facility who come from another country or state outside of their place of residence or business;
  • An explanation of how attendance figures were calculated.


Contracting Requirements

Organizations receiving lodging tax funds, with the exception of the City itself, are required to enter into a Professional Services Agreement (PSA) with the City of Vancouver.

  • Funding is provided on a reimbursable basis and copies of receipts must be included with the reimbursement request. Expenses that are not in accordance with the approved scope of work and PSA will not be eligible for reimbursement.
  • Reimbursements will be made within approximately 30-days of submittal of request and receipts.
  • Costs incurred prior to the grants being approved by the City Council and the execution of the PSA are not eligible for reimbursement.
  • The applicant must have liability insurance, in an amount commensurate with the risk exposure of the project, and which names the City of Vancouver as an additional insured.
  • Funds awarded for year-round operation of a program or facility will be dispersed quarterly.


Timeline

July Lodging tax fund applications are available
August Lodging tax applications are due
September-October Lodging Tax Advisory Committee review and recommendations
November City Council approval of recommendations
December Professional Services Agreements (PSA) approved
January Funding is available



Definitions

“Capital Improvements” can include wayfinding and other signage, restrooms and transportation options.

The “Destination Marketing Organization (DMO)” for Vancouver is Visit Vancouver USA.

“Municipality” means any county, city or town in the state of Washington.

“Special event/festival operations” can include any expenses associated with the operation of the event or festival with the exception of staffing expenses (salaries, benefits, travel, etc.) or insurance.

“Tourist” is defined by RCW 67.28 as people who travel more than 50 miles, one way, from their place of residence or business for the day or who stay overnight in paid accommodations.

“Tourism” means economic activity resulting from people visiting the community and includes sales of overnight lodging, meals, tours, gifts or souvenirs.

“Tourism Marketing/Promotion” means activities, operations and expenditures designed to increase tourism, including but not limited to advertising, publicizing or otherwise distributing information for the purpose of attracting and welcoming tourists, developing strategies to expand tourism; operating tourism promotion agencies and funding the marketing of or operation of special events and festivals designed to attract tourists.

“Tourism-Related Facility” is real or tangible personal property with a usable life of three or more years that is a) owned by a public entity or non-profit organization including a non-profit business organization, DMO, main street organization, lodging association or chamber of commerce; and b) is used to support tourism or performing arts or to accommodate tourist activities.