By Jesse Wood
Sept. 26, 2014. Tourism Development Authority officials in Watauga County are saying that summer tourism for the year has been “pretty good” to “strong” in terms of hotel occupancy in the High Country.
“I think it’s been a pretty good summer. If the weather had been hotter in the Piedmont, we would have seen a little more of an increase in weekend travel,” Watauga County TDA Executive Director Wright Tilley said. “It hurt us a little bit when temperatures were as cool as they were off of the mountain. When August is sweltering in Charlotte, Raleigh and the Greensboro-Triad area, that will drive weekend trips to the High Country.”
Tilley mentioned that occupancy tax revenue for Boone was up nearly 3 percent for June over that month in the prior year, while the county as a whole was down 2.4 percent in June compared to last year. However, June 2013 featured five weekends, while June 2014 featured only four weekends.
As for July with the same amount of weekends in 2013 and 2014, occupancy tax revenue was up 5.9 percent in Watauga County. Blowing Rock figures were up nearly 7 percent; the Town of Boone was essentially flat with a .24 percent increase; and other areas were up more than 8 percent in July, Tilley said.
While the complete numbers aren’t in for August, Tilley said, “I think the first half of August was good from what I hear from most of the lodging partners.”
In addition to the cooler weather down the mountain, Tilley said, “School start times affect our August tourism numbers a little, too.”
Blowing Rock TDA Executive Director Tracy Brown noted that the weather this year wasn’t rainy, which he believed contributed to the uptick in occupancy for the village.
“I think overall we saw a strong summer,” Brown said, adding that heading into the fall season, occupancy tax collection for July and August 2014 – compared to last year – was up 6.4 percent.
“A lot of retailers have suggested that they had a really good summer,” Brown said. “And we still have our busiest month ahead. That’s October and that’s really looking good.”