Tourism dollars grow as more visitors book hotel rooms

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 9, 2014

SALISBURY — The amount of money generated by visitors paying hotel room taxes is going up, and the Salisbury-Rowan Convention and Visitor Bureau plans to hire an additional marketing employee.
Hotel occupancy tax revenue, which funds the Convention and Visitor Bureau and the city and county tourism authorities, has increased every month since the start of the new fiscal year in July.
Last year, hotel room taxes generated $627,219. The money funds things like the new trolleys, Christmas decorations, marketing and public art, as well as the CVB staff.
So far during this fiscal year, hotel room tax revenue has grown by between 9 percent and 17 percent every month except September, when it fell by 1.8 percent. That decrease was due to a banner month in September 2012, when the Democratic National Convention came to Charlotte and generated an additional $10,000 in hotel room taxes in Rowan County.
James Meacham, CVB executive director, said he predicts Rowan County will end the fiscal year with between 12 percent and 15 percent growth in hotel room tax revenue, up from four percent growth last year.
“Your efforts are paying off,” treasurer Mark Lewis told the CVB board Wednesday.
Meacham said the new Courtyard Marriott has helped boost occupancy tax revenue, making up for the loss of another national hotel brand, Holiday Inn. The Wallace family in June 2013 dropped their Holiday Inn franchise and renamed their Jake Alexander Boulevard property Hotel Salisbury & Conference Center.
The former Holiday Inn has had fewer reservations since the change, Meacham confirmed, but said he could not disclose specifics.
Hotel room tax revenue has gone up with the return of more business travelers to Rowan County and stabilization of gas prices, Meacham said. The biggest monthly jump in revenue — 17.6 percent in October — came in part from a CVB promotion that offered two free tickets to Thomas the Train at the N.C. Transportation Museum with every hotel room reservation.
The CVB sold about 200 packages, Meacham said.
Salisbury and Rowan also had an unusually strong wedding season in Fall 2013, he said.
Overall, the tourism industry generated about $132 million in Rowan County last year, up about five percent from the previous year.
“As we do our job well, the funding increases,” said Bill Burgin, chairman of the Salisbury-Rowan Convention and Visitor Bureau board.
The new Salisbury-Rowan CVB was created in July as a 501c6 organization, formalizing a partnership between the city and county tourism authorities that started in 2009.
While the authorities remain separate — each levying their own 3 percent hotel room tax — they are working more closely together than ever, making collective group decisions about tourism in Rowan and Salisbury, Meacham said.
“We wanted sustainability,” he said. “We didn’t want a structure based on personalities.”
Now, as members come and go from the board and staff at the CVB changes, the structure of the organization is set and does not depend on a certain person or group of people, Meacham said.
Interviews are under way for an additional marketing position at the CVB, a marketing and digital communications manager. Kristen Trexler, who currently holds the job, will become the partnership marketing manager, Meacham said.
He said money to pay the new employee will come from unallocated administrative wages and funds saved by restructuring the Gateway Building, which the CVB recently took over from the Chamber of Commerce.

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.