Funding for festivals and visitor centers hinges on tourism board decisions

The Haywood County Tourism Development Authority will weigh the merits of grant applications from tourism groups over the coming week.

Every year, tourism initiatives, from festivals to visitor center operations, compete for funding from the tourism authority. Haywood County hopes to bring in a little more than $1 million in tourism revenue over the 2009-2010 fiscal year, thanks to a 4 percent tax tacked on to overnight lodging accomodations. The tax carries a stipulation that it must be spent on tourism promotion. How to allocate the money is up to a 12-member tourism board appointed by the county.

Most of the money is used by the tourism authority to market Haywood County as a visitor destination through brochures, magazine ads, billboards, the Internet and various marketing campaigns.

But two pots of money are set aside specifically to fund special tourism projects and festivals by nonprofits and groups throughout the county. Competition for the funds has been contentious in past years — so contenious in fact that it led the county to raise the tax on overnight lodding from 3 percent of 4 percent to provide a bigger pot of money to go around.

That extra 1 percent — roughly $250,000 for the coming fiscal year — is divied up among geographic areas in the county. Each district gets money proportional to the amount of lodging tax collected from that district.

Committees from each of the five districts — Maggie, Waynesville, Lake Junaluska, Canton and Clyde — make recommendations to the Haywood tourism authority on which projects to fund from their respective district. The tourism authority has the final say, however.

On top of the money allocated for each district, the tourism authority sets aside another $100,000 to fund visitor centers and tourism initiatives seeking money from the general tourism budget rather than the special pot allocated for one of the geographic areas.

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