PARKERSBURG - Revenue from the hotel and motel tax in Wood County is up.
According to county finance records, from the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1 through January, the county collected $426,002.83. Hotel-motel tax collections for 2012-2013 were $605,136, $540,683.33 in 2011-2012 and $481,282.90 in fiscal year 2010-2011.
The increase translates into good news for the Greater Parkersburg Convention and Visitors Bureau and area parks, fairs, festivals and other nonprofits that receive a portion of the bed tax. The 6 percent bed tax is charged on hotel rooms in the unincorporated areas.
Mark Lewis, president of the Greater Parkersburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, said there are a number of reasons for the increased county hotel revenue.
"I think we are starting to see some of the oil and gas workers staying at some of the county hotels. We also saw an increase in tourism last year," Lewis said.
"Blennerhassett Island saw an increase of about 5,000 people last year, and Dave McKain with the Oil and Gas Museum said the museum had also seen an increase in visitors last year that led to the overall increase. We are also certainly starting to see the front wave of the benefits from travels and stays from gas field workers," Lewis said.
Blennerhassett Island saw a 23 percent increase since July and new events have been well-attended, said Matt Baker, superintendent of the Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park.
Partly due to the increased revenues, Lewis said the bureau saw a budget carryover of $63,000, $40,000 of which will go back into additional advertising and marketing of Wood County attractions in the coming year.
"The remainder of the surplus will be going into a capital reserve fund for any potential repairs or maintenance needed on the downtown bureau office," Lewis said.
The bureau is headquartered at 350 7th St., Parkersburg.
"We are excited to have those funds to increase our advertising and marketing for 2014. Last year was the first year I was fully in charge as president of the organization so I wanted to be conservative in my revenue projections, and in conjunction with the increased revenues over the previous year, that's what led to the surplus," Lewis said.
The county is required to allocate at least 50 percent of the hotel tax collections to the bureau; the remainder of the money is to be distributed to recreation and tourism entities and activities.
In 2008, the commission raised the tax rate from 3 percent to 6 percent.
After raising the rate the commission created and adopted guidelines for a new Innovative Program Grant and Special Promotions Fund, which is funded through 7 percent of the hotel and motel tax revenue that is set aside. These funds are offered on a competitive basis and were intended to bring visitors to the area and increase hotel stays.
Under the 2013-2014 budget, county bed tax distributions were Actors Guild, 1 percent, with a $5,000 cap; Artsbridge, 2 percent; the Belleville Homecoming, 0.75 percent; the Blennerhassett Historical Foundation, 0.50 percent, with a cap of $2,500; Fort Boreman Park, 3 percent; Julia-Ann Square Historical Society, 1 percent, with a $5,000 cap; Oil and Gas Museum, 1.50 percent; Art Center, 1.50 percent, with a $5,000 cap; The Parkersburg News and Sentinel Half Marathon, 0.50 percent, with a $5,000 cap; Parkersburg Homecoming, 2.50 percent; Greater Parkersburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, 50 percent; Smoot Theatre, 2.90 percent; Mountwood Park, 18 percent; Veterans Museum, 1.10 percent; Wood County Historical and Preservation Society, 0.50 percent, with a $2,500 cap; West Virginia Interstate Fair and Expo, 3.75 percent; Veterans Park, 2.50 percent, and the Innovative Grant Program, 7 percent.
Transient guest tax collections for January released by the Marietta-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau showed revenues of more than $25,508.95, an increase of almost 2.5 percent from the same time last year, which is almost 12,000 room nights sold.
Chuck Swaney, president of the tourist bureau's board of directors, said the increase in bed tax revenue allows more opportunities to attract visitors to the area.
"The more funds the CVB has to work with, the more opportunities we have to market this area," Swaney said. "Our mission is to promote Marietta-Washington County as a distinctive destination and research shows we are accomplishing that."