Travel Taxes: Best and Worst Cities Ranked in GBTA's 2012 Report

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.

“Cities and states must think carefully about the sales that local businesses will lose because of the higher costs that travel taxes impose,” said Joseph Bates, GBTA Foundation VP of research. “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.”

The top 50 markets are ranked in the study 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 (left) and highest (right) total tax burden in central city locations, factoring in general sales taxes and discriminatory travel taxes:

Lowest total tax burdenCombined single day
travel taxes
Fort Lauderdale, Fla. $22.21
Fort Myers, Fla. $22.21
West Palm Beach, Fla. $22.21
Detroit, Mich. $22.37
Portland, Ore. $22.45
Orange County, Calif. $22.79
Burbank, Calif. $23.74
Ontario, Calif. $24.08
Honolulu, Hawaii $24.38
Orlando, Fla. $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 burdenCombined single day
travel taxes
Chicago, Ill. $40.31
New York, N.Y. $37.98
Boston, Mass. $34.83
Kansas City, Mo. $34.58
Seattle, Wash. $34.43
Minneapolis, Minn. $34.32
Cleveland, Ohio $34.22
Indianapolis, Ind. $34.19
Nashville, Tenn. $34.13
Houston, Texas $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, Calif. $1.81
Orange County, Calif. $3.36
Ontario, Calif. $4.66
San Diego, Calif. $5.43
Los Angeles, Calif. $5.95
Oakland, Calif. $5.95
Fort Lauderdale, Fla. $7.17
Fort Myers, Fla. $7.17
Tampa, Fla. $7.17
West Palm Beach, Fla. $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, Ore. $22.45
Boston, Mass. $19.17
Chicago, Ill. $16.49
New York, N.Y. $15.74
Minneapolis, Minn. $15.45
Kansas City, Mo. $15.21
Charlotte, N.C. $14.88
Cleveland, Ohio $14.79
Milwaukee, Wisc. $14.76
Washington, D.C. $14.68


The full list of fifty destinations is available exclusively to GBTA members by clicking here and non-members may purchase the report through the GBTA Foundation by emailing [email protected].


You can see last year’s full report here. 

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