PARKERSBURG - While some of Wood County's revenue sources have declined over the past five years, revenues collected from the hotel/motel tax showed a 17.79 percent increase.
From fiscal year 2008-2009 to the present, collections of the 6 percent occupancy tax for hotels in the unincorporated areas went from $497,507 in 2008-2009 to $605,136 in 2012-2013, according to financial information provided recently to the Wood County commissioners.
Mark Lewis, director of the Greater Parkersburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, attributed the revenue increase, at least in part, to changes in economic conditions.
"Coming out of the recession people are more willing to spend some money. In 2008-2009 particularly the years were down, but in the past three years, in general, the trend nationally has been up. Part of it, I think, is pent-up demand, people had been cautious with their money, now they are more likely to take vacations again, travel," Lewis said.
The director said the bureau tries to get the word out about area attractions through as many venues as possible.
"We are very optimistic, a lot is tied to the national economy and signs continue to be relatively positively. We see people moving around, taking vacations again, and that's a national trend," Lewis said.
The county is required by statute to turn over at least 50 percent of the hotel tax collections to the bureau, the remainder of the money is to be distributed to recreation/tourism entities, activities.
Lewis noted while the additional revenue means the bureau can continue to advertise and promote the area, it also means more funding for area attractions as well.
"It's parceled out to attractions, fairs, festivals, it's not only good for us, it also leads to increased money being available to support those various attractions and events which are so important to us," Lewis said.
In 2008 the commission raised the room occupancy tax from 3 to 6 percent.
After raising the rate the commission created and adopted guidelines for a new Innovative Program Grant/Special Promotions Fund, which is funded through 7 percent of the hotel/motel tax revenue that is set aside. These grant funds are offered on a competitive basis. When the grant program was created, county officials said it was to bring visitors to the area and increase hotel stays.
Under the 2013-2014 budget, the county hotel/motel tax distributions will be: Actors Guild, 1 percent, with a $5,000 cap, projected to raise $6,714. Artsbridge, 2 percent, projected to raise $13,428; Belleville Homecoming, 0.75 percent, projected to raise $5,035; Blennerhassett Historical Foundation, 0.50 percent, with a cap of $2,500, projected to raise $3,357 this year. Fort Boreman Park, 3 percent, projected to raise $20,141; Julia-Ann Square Historical Society, 1 percent, with a $5,000 cap, expected to raise $6,714 this year; Oil and Gas Museum, 1.50 percent, expected to raise $10,071 this year; Art Center, 1.50 percent, expected to raise $10,071 this year, there is a $5,000 cap on this funding; Parkersburg News and Sentinel Half Marathon, 0.50 percent, projected to raise $3,357. This event also has a $5,000 cap; Parkersburg Homecoming, 2.50 percent, expected to raise $16,784; the Greater Parkersburg Convention and Visitor's Bureau, 50 percent, projected to raise $335,688; Smoot Theatre, 2.90 percent, expected to generate $19,470; Mountwood Park, 18 percent, projected to raise $120,848; Veterans Museum, 1.10 percent, to raise $7,385; Wood County Historical and Preservation Society, 0.50 percent, projected to raise $3,357 this year. There is a $2,500 cap on this funding; West Virginia Interstate Fair and Expo, 3.75 percent, expected to generate $25,177; Veterans Park, 2.50 percent, expected to raise $16,784, and the Innovative Grant Program, 7 percent, projected to raise $46,996.
Funds collected over any caps imposed for entities are supposed to go back into Veterans Park and Fort Boreman Park, according to county officials.
Hotel tax revenue collections on the other side of the river are up as well.
Officials with the Marietta-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau showed revenues over $42,925 for the month of June, an increase of nearly 14 percent from the same time period in 2012.
"Statistics indicate that overnight visitors spend on average $362.30 per visit," said Jeri Knowlton, executive director of the Marietta-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau. "Single-day visitors only spend $139.60 per trip, a major difference compared to overnight travelers."
"Without appropriate funding from City Council we could not effectively market Washington County to travelers," said Chuck Swaney, president of the Marietta-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau Board of Directors. "Our responsibility is to make sure people know what great things we have in Washington County and turn them into visitors."