Texas lifts hotel occupancy tax for storm victims, relief workers

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Flooding in Houston's Energy Corridor District, home to many hotels.
Flooding in Houston's Energy Corridor District, home to many hotels.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday said victims of Hurricane Harvey and relief workers would be exempt from paying hotel occupancy taxes for two weeks.

Abbott made the decision the same day he requested a disaster declaration from President Donald Trump, which was granted.

"There is no doubt that Hurricane Harvey is creating a temporary housing emergency in the state of Texas," said Abbott. "The state of Texas has a duty to ensure we are offering as much relief as possible to the victims, first responders, and relief-effort personnel of this terrible storm. Reducing the cost of hotel accommodations is one part of that process."

The storm, which made landfall on Friday as a Category 4 hurricane (winds of 130 to 156 miles per hour), has dropped more than 20 inches of rain in southeast Texas since last Thursday. Now a tropical storm, Harvey may dump another 24 inches of rain in the next three days, the National Weather Service said Monday.

Houston, the fourth-largest U.S. city, has been beset by extensive flooding. About 75,000 calls have been made to Houston's 911 system since the storm hit, reported the Associated Press.

Hotel companies IHG and Hyatt on Monday said they were gathering information about potential property damage at their Houston-area hotels. Hilton said its hotels had not sustained significant damage and that they remain open with limited services.

Marriott International said Monday that six of its hotels in the Houston and Corpus Christi areas are closed: five Fairfield Inns and one TownPlace Suites.

Marriott and the J. Willard & Alice S. Marriott Foundation are each donating $250,000 to the American Red Cross to help storm victims.

With about 86,000 rooms, Houston is the eighth-largest U.S. hotel market, according to hotel data company STR.

Hertz Global Holdings said that it has closed all but two of its 45 Houston-area locations.

"Our Hertz, Dollar and Thrifty locations proactively prepared for Hurricane Harvey by following our company's storm preparedness and safety procedures, which included moving vehicles to higher ground," Hertz said in a statement. "We are bringing in additional vehicles to the area to support our customers, insurance partners, FEMA and other aid and first responder organizations to help them assist those impacted by the storm."

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