A good investment

Published 12:42 am Friday, January 30, 2009

By Staff
Some people have questioned whether the money Washington spends on attracting tourists to the Heart of the Inner Banks is a good investment.
Not only is it a good investment each year, but this year, when a recession grips the national and local economies, it is a needed investment.
Washington merchants, like their counterparts across the nation, are feeling the financial pinch from an ailing economy. And with winter in Washington being the “slow” time of the year for many area businesses, business owners look for ways to bring in revenue during those slow months.
That explains why area merchants are anticipating and excited about the 14th annual East Carolina Wildlife Arts Festival and North Carolina Decoy Carving Championships coming to downtown Washington the weekend of Feb. 6-8. About 5,000 visitors, if the weather cooperates, will come to Washington to participate in the festival.
That means more people visiting shops, eating at restaurants and staying at area lodging establishments. In turn, that means additional revenues for those businesses, not to mention revenues that the city will receive from sales taxes and occupancy tax.
The city uses most of its revenues from the 6 percent occupancy tax to market Washington as a destination for tourists.
The question is whether the city is getting a big enough bang for the bucks it spends on efforts to promote the city to tourists.
In fiscal year 2006-2007, Washington collected $235,869 in occupancy-tax revenue. The city kept $7,076 for administrative charges. The remaining $228,793 was turned over to the Washington Tourism Development Authority. Under state law, occupancy-tax revenues must be spent on programs and projects designed to bring more people for overnight stays or longer visits to areas served by those agencies.
A study commissioned by the tourism authority of the 2006 Eastern Carolina Wildlife Arts Festival and North Carolina Decoy Carving Championships determined the three-day event had an economic impact of $162,240 on the local economy. That figure included $11,356 in total sales tax revenue, with the state’s share coming in at $7,300 and the county’s totaling $4,056.
That economic impact of $162,240 is more than half of the $228,793 the city took in during fiscal year 2005-2006 and was earmarked for tourism development.
David Gossett, a member of the East Carolina Wildfowl Guild that organizes the festival, told the City Council late last year he believes that impact is closer to $300,000 these days, if not more. If that is the case, it is good news.
Even a $162,240 impact this year would be welcomed by merchants and innkeepers.
These days, Washington could use more multiple-day events that result in people spending money while they are here.
Just ask any merchant or innkeeper in the city.