Empty beds tax tourism coffers

Published 4:48 pm Friday, September 17, 2010

Staff Writer

Despite a drop in tourism dollars spent in Beaufort County in 2009, occupancy-tax revenue held steady for the Washington for fiscal year 2008-2009.
Washington, the only municipality in Beaufort County with an occupancy tax, collected $255,280 in tax revenue from its 6 percent hotel occupancy tax during the 2008-2009 fiscal year. Of that, the city retained $7,658 for administrative charges while the balance of $247,622 went to the Washington Tourism Development Authority.
For every $100 spent on lodging such as hotel and motel rooms, the city collects $6 in taxes. The occupancy-tax revenue for Washington’s 2007-08 fiscal year was $256,838.
“You have to understand that in August of ’08 when the market collapsed, it started downhill for the travel industry,” said Joseph Ladaga, general manager at the Hampton Inn on West 15th Street. “You’ll see across the board, the U.S. travel industry declined the first several months of ’09. The latter part of the year, it tried to level off, and this year it is coming back again, especially the first quarter. Overall, the business folks have reduced their travel plans. The leisure folks are still the same with family reunions and weddings and traveling I-95 to Florida. More and more people are traveling in terms of leisure and business. Hopefully, 2011 will be better.”
State law dictates that occupancy tax revenues be used on programs intended to bring more people for overnight stays to areas served by agencies like the WTDA. Washington retains 3 percent of the occupancy-tax revenue for WTDA administration while the WTDA receives the balance.
In Hyde County, a 3-percent occupancy tax provided $430,600 in revenue in 2008-2009, a drop from the $435,976 collected in fiscal year 2007-08.
Martin County’s 6-percent occupancy tax generated $216,541 in total revenue in 2008-2009. A bulk of that revenue — $209,773 — went to Martin County Travel and Tourism. Martin County collected $252,918 in occupancy-tax revenue in 2007-08.
Washington County, which also has a 6-percent occupancy tax, received $106,554 in revenue in 2008-2009, down from the $121,115 it realized in 2007-2008.