On Tuesday, the citizens of Lawton Fort Sill have an opportunity to continue and increase funding to promote our local tourism and hospitality industries. Since 1986 the citizens have approved an occupancy tax to be used to promote tourism, economic development, and community enhancement. Citizens of Lawton Fort Sill are exempt from the tax.
The use of the funds originated with the Lawton Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce and has grown to include other valued agencies and initiatives around our community. As with many other industries, 2020 offered unprecedented volatility and uncertainty to those in the hospitality business. The Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), an extension of the Lawton Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce, is one of many agencies that employs the occupancy tax revenues to promote and attract tourists and tourist groups (conventions) to our area. These conventions attract multiple hundreds of tourists each. These tourists spend multiple nights in our hotels, and shop and dine locally, thus increasing our economic base.
One example of a convention the CVB has attracted recently is the Oklahoma Manufacturing Summit slated to visit our area this summer. This group of manufacturers meets every year and has never (before this year) held their convention outside of the Greater Tulsa or Oklahoma City areas. Another example is the Oklahoma Mayors conference, which is a group of roughly 100 mayors (plus family) from across the state that have not in recent history held their convention in Southwest Oklahoma.
These are just two of many instances of the occupancy tax dollars at work driving economic opportunity for our community. But the CVB is only one of the many agencies employing the tax revenues. Other important endeavors include: Lawton Enhancement Trust Authority, Freedom Festival, Lawton Community Theater, Holiday in the Park, Lawton Heritage Association, Lawton Philharmonic Orchestra, Museum of the Great Plains, and Lawton Farmers Market.
The occupancy tax represents a key mechanism for funding these economically important ventures with funds from outside our community. Remember, citizens of Lawton Fort Sill do not pay this tax! I hope you will join me in voting YES to approve the extension and increase of this important revenue stream on Tuesday, February 9th!
Board Chair, Lawton Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce