The American Bus Association (ABA), the United Motorcoach Association (UMA) and the National Tour Association (NTA) have formed a coalition to defend tourist services and visitors against a Washington, D.C., government measure that could hurt tens of thousands of potential visitors to the nation’s capital.
The coalition filed a lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court to stop the city from collecting $50 trip “permit fees” every six days from each motorcoach entering the city. For each “trip permit” fee operators must surrender $50 per coach for each six-day period, or up to $2,200 per year for each bus.
The lawsuit claims that the fees violate D.C. law and the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution, and seeks a declaratory order, a permanent injunction against collection of the fees and refunds of any fees that are collected.
The 2006 Motorcoach Impact Study, commissioned by the ABA Foundation, documents that “a single tour bus on a two-night tour injects as much as $16,000 into a local economy.” That confirms conclusions of a 2002 George Washington University study, also underwritten by ABA.
D.C. restaurants, hotels, vendors and other retail businesses all collect sales taxes on such revenues on behalf of the nation’s capital. So the tourism tax on bus operators could result in less visitor-generated local spending, meaning a decline in tax revenues overall. D.C.’s traffic congestion could also worsen as a result of this measure. With every full motorcoach taking up to 55 cars off the road, motorcoaches help fight gridlock.
“The same mom-and-pop operators who transport veterans and students visiting the capital to learn how democracy works now have a new fee to pay for the privilege of safely transporting Americans to D.C. for a civics lesson,” said ABA President/CEO Peter Pantuso.
Added UMA President/CEO Victor Parra: “This is clearly a penny-wise, pound-foolish decision. Coming from a city that depends on tourism to support its tax base, this law sends the wrong message to charter and tour operators around the country.”
“The effects of the new motorcoach permit fee will be felt throughout the region’s tourist-centered services,” said NTA President Lisa Simon. “And the money lost to D.C. tourism will never be fully quantified, because we’ll never know who decided not to visit D.C. because of this regressive tax.”