Visit Houston and You'll Pay

Houston hits travelers with one of biggest tax burdens in America

Houston hits travelers with one of biggest tax burdens in America

downtown Houston skyline at dusk
A new report by the Global Business Travel Association indicates that Houston is one of the worst offenders in the U.S. in terms of levying high taxes on travelers. Photo by Jim Olive/Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau

Houston is no cheap date. At least not for tourists or business travelers. According to a 2013 report from the Global Business Travel Association, taxes levied specifically on travel and related services increased the total tax bill for travelers by 58 percent this year, and Houston is one of the worst offenders, ranking 10th in the country for travel fees.

The annual study examined taxes on hotel lodging, car rentals and restaurant meals in the top 50 U.S. destination cities to show how this taxation is regularly used to fund local projects, most of which are unrelated to tourism or business travel, the GTBA claims.

"Road warriors strengthen the economy, create jobs and drive economic security," GBTA executive director and COO Michael McCormick said in a statement. "Yet governments insist on treating travelers like their ATM.

"These types of punitive travel taxes will ultimately push business travelers to stay home, and we all pay when governments take a short-sighted approach that raises the costs for business travel."

The report found that Chicago levied the highest total tax — which includes general sales taxes and discriminatory travel taxes (those directly aimed at travelers, such as taxes levied on car rentals) — at a combined single-day average of $41. New York City followed closely at $38.65 per day.

Minneapolis came in at No. 3 with $36.70 in taxes, followed by Kansas City ($36.61), Indianapolis ($36), Cleveland ($35.41), Boston ($35.32), Seattle ($35.11), Nashville ($34.75) and Houston ($34.16) at No. 10.

Furthermore, McCormick claims that state and local governments aren't the only ones raising these taxes; the federal government is in on it too. (The House recently approved a resolution to increase TSA security fees tacked onto airline tickets.) "Instead of driving TSA efficiencies that curb spending, Congress' solution is to double the amount travelers pay," he said.

On the other end of the spectrum, destinations in Florida and California have the lowest numbers for both total travel tax burden and discriminatory travel tax burden. At just $1.58 per day, GBTA's report found that Burbank, California, had the lowest discriminatory travel tax rates of any major U.S. city.