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Oil, gas drilling generates motel tax revenue

PARKERSBURG –The state’s growing natural gas and oil business is contributing to more room stays in the area and growing the county’s hotel/motel tax revenue.

The Wood County area saw steady growth from around 2010 to 2014 from an influx from the natural gas business, a local official said.

“It started ramping up and 2014 was our high water year,” said Greater Parkersburg Convention and Visitors Bureau President and CEO Mark Lewis.

The county brought in $561,031 in the hotel/motel tax in 2014, but then started seeing a decline as interest in the natural gas began to taper off with $535,660 in the hotel/motel tax being brought in 2015 and $453,649 in 2016 before starting to improve with $488,742 in 2017, he said.

While oil and gas activity was going good in 2014, additional hotels were built in the area that increased the room inventory by 340 rooms, Lewis said. The number of rooms rose from 984 to 1,324 — an increase of 48 percent, he said.

“In the fall of 2014 the oil prices dropped and we started to see a pull back in the gas exploration and drilling,” Lewis said.

By 2017, the area started to see a pickup in more room nights once again, Lewis said. There were 210,487 room nights in 2017 over 185,756 nights in 2016. It was an increase of 24,731 room night stays.

“Things are on a really positive trajectory,” Lewis said. “From everything I am seeing and hearing with regard to the gas business that will be solid for us for the next couple of years in the foreseeable future.

“That will continue to have a positive impact on our room nights sold and on the hotel motel tax revenue. We are very happy in the increase in room nights sold.”

For over a year, the area’s room night stays were up over the same month during the previous year with the exception of April 2017, which was down from the previous year, Lewis said. He does not know why that happened.

Because there are more rooms in the area the occupancy rate remains down, he said, but the CVB is trying to increase the number of leisure travel visitors.

“Even though the total room nights sold have rebounded in a significant way, the occupancy rate for our individual properties is still not where we would like it to be,” Lewis said.

When the hotels were full in 2014, the occupancy rate was a lot higher. They were charging higher rates because there was greater demand and less supply, he said.

“Now we have the increased demand and we have an overabundance of supply,” Lewis said. “We are trying to move it and hopefully, we will move that occupancy rate higher. The gas business will help out with that as well.”

The CVB will be doing cooperative initiatives through the state Division of Tourism, which Lewis believes will help increase the number of leisure visitors to the area. The Parkersburg area will be highlighted in the Columbus, Pittsburgh and Cleveland markets.

The CVB is seeing an increase in traffic on its website, Lewis said.

From 2012 to 2017, the CVB has almost doubled the visits to its website going from over 44,000 in 2012 to over 85,000 in 2017, which translates into 212,687 page views.

“Not only are we getting more people to the website they are also looking at more pages there,” Lewis said of the redesigned and easier to use website launched a few years ago.

With the recently announced plan by China Energy to invest around $87 billion in West Virginia over the next 20 years, the state’s prospects continue to improve, he said. With growth in the state’s natural gas industry, the area is seeing an increase in people.

“Everyone has seen the places where the pipe is being stored,” Lewis said. “That will have to go in the ground and people will be putting it in there. There are more drilling rigs operating in the state. I am hoping we will enter a good 3-5 year phase.”

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