Travel group sees upturn in tourism
Travel Berkeley Springs (TBS), the group that promotes tourism to Morgan County, is seeing evidence of more travel activity in the area as they review lodging receipts from hotels, motels and inns from April, May and June.
TBS is funded through a 4% tax on lodging rooms in the county. Guests pay $4 in lodging tax on every $100 they spend on an overnight stay.
The travel group receives half of that tax, while the other half is distributed to community groups engaged in beautification, cultural or recreational projects.
Organizations like the Foxglove Garden Club, Boys & Girls Club, Morgan Arts Council and Morgan County Fair receive hotel tax funds.
County collecting more
TBS received $12,192 in hotel tax funds from April through June, the fourth quarter of the last fiscal year, according to Laura Smith of TBS.
Last year, the group got $8,294 during that same quarter. The $3,900 increase represents a 47% hike in lodging receipts.
The majority of the increase came from businesses outside the Town of Bath limits. County hotel tax receipts went up $3,500 – roughly 53% over the same quarter last year.
Town hotel taxes went up just $373 over last year, likely due to the increase of the lodging tax from 3% to 4% in June.
The Bath Town Council is still seeing a shortfall of hotel tax revenue, in large part because of collection issues with the town’s largest lodging establishment – The Country Inn.
Town officials have an active lawsuit against the Inn to collect $30,000 in overdue lodging tax revenue from 2009 and 2010.
The town’s attorney, Richard Gay, said the Inn has submitted hotel tax reports in a timely way in 2011, recording how much tax they’ve collected from their guests each month.
But the Inn has not turned over that tax money to the town since February.
During the 2010-2011 fiscal year, Town of Bath collected $17,385 in hotel tax from about a dozen lodging businesses. According to their budget, they expected to collect $30,000.
Morgan County’s tax office collected $92,000 in lodging tax for the last fiscal year — $2,000 more than they had expected.
Better lodging, not retail
Smith said local lodging businesses have reported feeling a rebound recently, though retail shops haven’t felt the same upswing in business yet.
“Visitors will come, stay and eat, but they won’t buy that art or other item they might have in the past,” said Smith. “That’s discretionary money.”
TBS members will meet soon to evaluate their advertising strategies for the coming months, Smith aid.
TBS promised members they would renew promotional efforts with money generated by the 1% Hotel/Motel tax increase that took effect this spring.
The tax is now 4% at both town and county lodging businesses.