Oxford’s 2 Percent Tourism Tax Dips 30 percent in March

By Alyssa Schnugg
News editor

The COVID-19 crisis shut down Oxford’s downtown Square, creating a loss to the city’s 2 percent food and beverage tax and hotel/motel tax which are used to fund many projects around the city.
Photo by Matt Nichols

While the first case of COVID-19 in Lafayette County was reported on March 31, restaurants and other Oxford businesses had already shut down and residents – and potential visitors – were staying at home.

However, many restaurants, liquor stores and other “essential” businesses continued to operate by serving food and drink via delivery and curbside pickup.

The city of Oxford’s 2 percent food and beverage tax took a hit in March, as expected; however, the city still collected $218,806 from the tax, down from $317,716 in March 2019, according to Visit Oxford Director Kinne Ferris.

Most hotels had shuttered their doors but the few that remained open provided the city with $23,777 from its hotel/motel 2 percent tax, down from $43,940 in March 2019.

Hotel occupancy was at 24 percent in March.

Restaurants were allowed to open their dining rooms last week for the first time since March but with strict social distancing guidelines and other health and safety mandates.
Photo by Matt Nichols

“The numbers aren’t that positive but it’s going to be worse (for April),” said Oxford Tourism Council chairman Bryon Cohron Monday during the council’s regular meeting held via Zoom.

The 2 percent taxes average about $3 million in revenue for the city that goes toward projects and equipment to improve tourism. It helps fund upgrades at mTrade Park, the Oxford Conference Center and Visit Oxford. Other projects include sidewalks around the Square, ADA upgrades, street cleaning equipment, the bathrooms inside the downtown parking garage, the upkeep of Oxford’s historic museums like the LQC Lamar House and more.

Visit Oxford receives the tax number generally about two months behind from the Mississippi Department of Revenue so April’s numbers won’t be known until next month.