Travel Taxes in the U.S.: The Best and Worst Cities to Visit

Statistics & Metrics

original author/publisher GBTA Foundation

Date: September 10, 2012

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About this Resource

Discriminatory travel taxes and fees enacted on travel-related services impose an average increased cost on visitors of 57% over general sales tax, according to new research released by the GBTA Foundation, the education and research arm of the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA). Findings from the 2012 annual study of car rental, hotel and meal taxes in the top 50 U.S. travel destination cities found these taxes are often used to fund local projects unrelated to tourism and business travel.

"Business travel is a key driver of economic growth, but overly burdensome taxes on business travel can often do more harm than good, especially when those taxes unfairly target visitors," said Joseph Bates, GBTA Foundation senior director of research. "Cities and states must think carefully about the sales that local businesses will lose because of the higher costs that travel taxes impose."

"Tax rates that spike add another dimension for travel managers and local businesses. If spending one night in Chicago is 81% more expensive than visiting Ft. Lauderdale, for example, it can have an effect on where businesses decide to meet, hold events, and spend their travel dollars," continued Bates.

The study provides several different views of travel taxes to help readers make informed choices. The top 50 markets are ranked in two ways:

1) By overall travel tax burden, including general sales tax and discriminatory travel taxes.

2) By discriminatory travel tax burden, excluding general sales taxes to count only taxes that target car rentals, hotel stays and meals. Discriminatory travel taxes are targeted at travelers or travel-related areas and go above the general sales tax.

Total Travel Tax Burden

U.S. cities where travelers incur the lowest total tax burden in central city locations, factoring in general sales taxes and discriminatory travel taxes:

Lowest total tax burden

Combined single day travel taxes

Fort Lauderdale, FL

$22.21

Fort Myers, FL

$22.21

West Palm Beach, FL

$22.21

Detroit, MI

$22.37

Portland, OR

$22.45

Orange County, CA

$22.79

Burbank, CA

$23.74

Ontario, CA

$24.08

Honolulu, HI

$24.38

Orlando, FL

$24.50

U.S. cities where travelers incur the highest total tax burden in central city locations, factoring in general sales taxes and discriminatory travel taxes:

Highest total tax burden

Combined Single day travel taxes

Chicago, IL

$40.31

New York, NY

$37.98

Boston, MA

$34.83

Kansas City, MO

$34.58

Seattle, WA

$34.43

Minneapolis, MN

$34.32

Cleveland, OH

$34.22

Indianapolis, IN

$34.19

Nashville, TN

$34.13

Houston, TX

$33.51

Discriminatory Travel Tax Burden

Discriminatory travel taxes are those imposed specifically on travel services above and beyond general sales taxes. California boasts the lowest discriminatory travel tax rates in several central city locations.

U.S. cities with the lowest discriminatory travel tax rates in central city locations:

Lowest discriminatory travel tax rates

Discriminatory increase over general sales tax

Burbank, CA

$1.81

Orange County, CA

$3.36

Ontario, CA

$4.66

San Diego, CA

$5.43

Los Angeles, CA

$5.95

Oakland, CA

$5.95

Fort Lauderdale, FL

$7.17

Fort Myers, FL

$7.17

Tampa, FL

$7.17

West Palm Beach, FL

$7.17

U.S. cities with the highest discriminatory travel tax rates in central city locations:

Highest discriminatory travel tax rates

Discriminatory increase over general sales tax

Portland, OR

$22.45

Boston, MA

$19.17

Chicago, IL

$16.49

New York, NY

$15.74

Minneapolis, MN

$15.45

Kansas City, MO

$15.21

Charlotte, NC

$14.88

Cleveland, OH

$14.79

Milwaukee, WI

$14.76

Washington, DC

$14.68

The full list of fifty destinations can be found in the full report which offers detailed insight for travel managers interested in understanding the impact that these taxes have on their business travel spend.

Resource contributor

Paul Yachnes

I am Research Library Manager with GBTA Foundation, responsible for building and maintaining the Digital Resource Library and answering member research and reference questions. If I can help you find research, whitepapers, RFPs, presentations,...