Optimistic outlook for lodging revenue falls short
The Haywood County Tourism Board was hoping for a 15 percent increase in occupancy tax collection this August, but what it saw was a 20 percent decline.
“The August numbers aren’t good,” said Lynn Collins, director of the tourism agency.
It brought in $93,646 from its 4 percent tax on overnight lodging this August. However, it had projected that it would raise at least $114,442 — a 20 percent different.
“A lot of it has to do with the increase I projected for August,” Collins said. “If you look at it in comparison to last year, it doesn’t look as bad as it does compared to budget.”
When compared to last year, the decrease is only 7 percent, or almost $5,000.
Collins said she predicted an increase because of the number of area sporting events, including the Blue Ridge Breakaway and the Maggie Valley Moonlight Run. High gas prices and the economy continue to negatively affect the tourism board’s occupancy tax numbers, she said.
Despite the decline, Collins said she remains optimistic that things will improve.
“I feel good about it,” Collins said.
The tourism agency will not adjust its projections or make any cuts until January, she said.
At its quarterly meeting earlier this month, the tourism board began discussing ways to find vacation home renters who are evading the county’s lodging tax.
Collins is currently looking into software from the Virginia-based company VRCompliance, which searches the Internet for property listings and identifies rentals that are not paying the room tax.
The agency is also looking for more effective ways to censure businesses or renters who know about the tax but do not pay it. The tax doesn’t come out the lodgers’ revenue but is supposed to be added to the bill of those renting a room or house.