Room tax revenues rise, though not necessarily number of travelers
Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties all reported an increase in lodging tax revenue last fiscal year, compared to the prior year, though in some cases the hike is due to tax increases rather than an increase in travelers.
The tax is added to the room charges of people who stay overnight in an accommodation and is then used by travel and tourism associations to try and attract more travelers.
Western Carolina University also recently released a study predicting that lodging tax revenue would rise 2.1 percent in Macon County and 3.5 percent in Haywood, Jackson and Swain counties this October.
The study’s conclusion is based on steady or slightly falling gasoline prices, stable hotel rates, favorable weather conditions, and a number of popular events, according to the news release. However, it included a caveat — the government shutdown could negatively affect those numbers.
The amount of the room tax depends on the county or the town. For example, the lodging tax is 4 percent in Haywood and Jackson counties but only 3 percent in Macon County. The town of Franklin, which tracks its revenues separately from the rest of the county, has its own 3 percent tax on overnight stays. When added to the county’s tax, the actual tax charge for those staying overnight in the town of Franklin is 6 percent of the room’s cost.
The town of Franklin is the only place to register a slight decline in revenue from lodging tax.
Janet Anderson, finance officer for Franklin, blamed the loss of an accommodation.
“We used to have one more motel, but that was tore down,” she said.
Swain County saw a 34.4 percent increase in its lodging tax revenue, but that’s due to a hike in the room tax from 3 to 4 percent rather than an influx of travelers.
“That is in part because of the increase to 4 percent,” said Karen Wilmot, head of the Swain County Chamber of Commerce. “The 3 percent numbers are pretty static.”
Jackson County also increased its lodging tax to 4 percent from 3 percent effective Jan. 1.
The following is how much each county or town earned in lodging tax revenue last fiscal year (July 1-June 30) and the prior year, as well as how much the tax is.
Haywood County (4 percent)
FY 2012-13: $714,212
FY 2011-12: $661,315
Jackson County (4 percent)
FY 2012-13: $575,870
FY 2011-12: $484,370*
Macon County (3 percent)
FY 2012-13: $495,915
FY 2011-12: $467,430
Franklin (3 percent)
FY 2012-13: $103,415
FY 2011-12: $105,486
Swain County (4 percent)
FY 2012-13: $499,365
FY 2011-12: $371,525 *
*During fiscal year 2011-2012, Jackson and Swain lodging tax rates were only 3 percent.