I strongly oppose the hotel tax rate being increased by the Lycoming County commissioners until the county Visitors Bureau is separated from the Williamsport-Lycoming Chamber of Commerce and becomes an independent organization.

The chamber and Visitors Bureau are essentially two different animals living inside one skin. A government function fed by taxes and a private trade organization supported by membership fees. Hotel taxes are to be used by the Visitors Bureau to market the county’s tourism industry but they are first given to the chamber and make up about half of the chamber’s reported income.

Only chamber members are listed in the Visitors Bureau’s promotional materials unless a business pays a fee that is nearly the cost of membership. Banks and insurance companies, with no direct role in tourism are listed in Visitors Bureau materials. The firms who produce Visitors Bureau publications are usually chamber members and the materials produced are often substandard.

The executive director of the Visitors Bureau also has two executive positions in the chamber, which raises the question about whether tax dollars are being inappropriately used to compensate him in these roles. No additional tax money should go into this incestuous chamber-Visitors Bureau hybrid.