County’s tourism department sees increase in visitors, lodging tax

Published 11:46 am Friday, June 17, 2022

BY ROBERT SORRELL
With a portion of Carter County’s lodging tax revenue in its pocket, the Elizabethton/Carter County Chamber of Commerce hasn’t asked for any additional funding in the county’s next budget.
At its last meeting, the Carter County Budget Committee voted to appropriate $225,000 for the Chamber of Commerce for the new fiscal year of 2022-2023. The funds come entirely from the lodging tax.
Tourism receives a portion of its funding from the county’s lodging tax dollars. Lodging tax in Carter County is currently set at 5% and revenue from that goes to the Carter County Clerk, Carter County Trustee and the county’s general fund. Funding then goes to Tourism at the chamber of commerce. Lodging tax was approved in Carter County by the state in 1984 through a private act.
Between July 31, 2020, and June 30, 2021, there was $252,145.92 in revenue from lodging taxes, according to data from the county finance director. A total of $247,103.05 was paid to the Chamber of Commerce, the data shows. The difference between the two totals is the processing fee paid to the county Trustee’s Office.
The amount of money received by the county from lodging taxes and paid to the Chamber fluctuates each month. The amount has ranged from $46,871.62 paid in June 2021 to the Chamber to a low of $10,076.64 in January 2021, the data shows.
Carter County Director of Tourism Luke Freeman previously appeared before the county Budget Committee to provide members an update on the bureau, which is part of the Chamber of Commerce. He confirmed that tourism wasn’t asking for additional funding this year.
The tourism department operates under separate financial accounts than the Chamber, according to Executive Director Joy McCray.
“This funding is the same funding we’ve received for at least a decade,” McCray said. “Tourism uses this funding specifically to advertise outside of our region for outdoor recreation, relocation, travel and general tourism events. We also use this funding to reinvest into local projects that promote and are connected to tourism.”
McCray noted that tourism sponsored the Walnut Mountain horseback riding trail and parking lot. Tourism also assisted in funding for the new boat ramp at Lover’s Lane along the Watauga River. Tourism also sponsors local events such as Covered Bridge Days and fireworks over the 4th of July holiday in Elizabethton.
The executive director noted that she went to the commission back in February to thank them for previous funding for the ice rink in Elizabethton and reported that they wouldn’t be asking for any additional funding for the 2022 season.
“We’ve had a long-lasting relationship per our contract for tourism with the county for years and years,” McCray said. “It’s the same process we’ve always followed, which is great to have such a supportive relationship with the County Commission.”
If new opportunities arise, McCray said they may ask for additional funding in the future.
“It’s great that we have this positive relationship with the commission,” she said.
When family attractions such as Walt Disney World and Dollywood closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, McCray said Carter County saw an increase in tourism activity. Tourism shifted its advertising efforts towards families looking for a safe place to vacation and outdoor recreation.
“We’ve seen a return on this increase of tourism to our region since then and are gearing up for another busy year,” McCray said.
Lodging facilities in Carter County have been booked solid, she added, and a lot have been returning guests.
Money paid to the Chamber from lodging tax each month:
June 2021 – $46,871.62
May 2021 – $27,115.88
April 2021 – $12,654.17
March 2021 – $18,044.78
February 2021 – $16,355.50
January 2021 – $10,076.64
December 2020 – $15,954.53
November 2020 – $21,118.03
October 2020 – $18,364.38
September 2020 – $20,496.26
August 2020 – $21,847.04
July 2020 – $18,204.22
Total – $247,103.05

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