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Hotel room tax revenue hits peak

SALISBURY — March was the best month for hotel room tax revenue in Rowan County since officials began keeping records in the 1980s, a tourism official said.
Visitors paid $64,242 in hotel occupancy taxes in March, up 10.5 percent from March 2013. That translates to more than $1 million in revenue for the 19 hotels and bed and breakfasts in Rowan County, said James Meacham, executive director for the Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Local residents, as well as the tax base, benefits when more tourists spend the night, he said.
“The biggest direct benefit is more sales tax revenue paid for by visitors as opposed to residents,” Meacham said. “More overnight stays means more sales in restaurants, gas and retail, so it supports those businesses and can create jobs.”
An overnight visitor spends about $130 a day in Rowan, which Meacham called a conservative estimate.
If Quality Inn had paid the occupancy taxes the hotel owes from March, the increase in total tax revenue over a year ago likely would have been even higher, between 12 percent and 14 percent, Meacham said. Quality Inn on Klumac Road has dozens of violations of the hotel room tax levied by Rowan County and the city of Salisbury and faces penalties and possible criminal charges.
The Convention and Visitors Bureau has threatened legal action if the hotel does not pay.
Even without Quality Inn, March was the best month ever because of growing demand for hotel rooms in Rowan and throughout the Charlotte region, Meacham said. March also marked one full year with the new Courtyard Marriott in operation in Salisbury.
Salisbury and Rowan hosted more events than normal for March, including weddings and other private gatherings.
Corporate travel has picked up with more mid-week room reservations, and colleges in Rowan had more events than usual, Meacham said.
“April and May are looking good too,” he said. “… The CVB will come in well above expectations this year.”
Rowan and Salisbury each levy a 3 percent hotel room tax that goes to fund the Convention and Visitors Bureau to be used for marketing and tourism promotion.
March seems like an odd month to do so well for tourism, but Meacham said Rowan’s peak season has shifted and now runs from March through November. Previously, the season ran from April to October, he said.
More organizations are holding events in March, and more private gatherings like reunions are also scheduled for the month. The “quiet season” for local hotels is considered Thanksgiving to Valentine’s Day, Meacham said.
Meacham said he was encouraged that the local market continued to perform so well even after the loss of the Holiday Inn brand. That property is now Hotel Salisbury, and travelers who look online to book specifically at Holiday Inn no longer come across Salisbury.
March was the first month that gave tourism and economic development officials a look at the local hotel market without the Holiday Inn flag.
“The market is stable and strong,” Meacham said.
Rowan County has 14 hotels, three bed and breakfasts, one loft and one cabin.

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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