Watauga, Blowing Rock, & Boone Report 20 Percent YOY Increase in Occupancy Tax Revenue in 2016

Published Monday, February 20, 2017 at 4:39 pm

See bigger spreadsheet below.

By Jesse Wood

Including Boone and Blowing Rock, Watauga County’s occupancy tax revenues increased nearly 20 percent in 2016.

Wright Tilley, executive director of the Watauga County Tourism Development Authority, said that Watauga County has seen monthly increases in occupancy tax revenue for more than two years.

“I think it’s been a good year in tourism. We’ve managed to be up in occupancy tax collections for, I think, the last 27 months. That’s pretty strong,” Tilley said. “We’ve kind of leveled off for the county the last three months, so we’ll see what happens going into the spring and summer. I’m still optimistic 2017 will be a good tourism season.”

According to the 2016 occupancy tax collections report submitted to the Watauga County Board of Commissioners last week, Boone saw the highest year-over-year increases with a 28.3 percent gain. Some of that increase is attributed to the construction delays of The Standard of Boone, a student-housing complex that opened in the spring of 2017 rather than the fall of 2016.

Occupancy tax revenue for the Watauga County TDA is derived from a 6-percent tax levied on short-term rentals. After 90 days, a rental crosses the threshold of a short-term rental and becomes a long-term stay. Tilley noted that because some of The Standard tenants stayed in hotels longer than 90 days during the fall semester, the Town of Boone will have to pay back some of the $1.5 million in occupancy tax revenues earned in 2016.

Last year, Blowing Rock collected $1.05 million in occupancy tax revenue, which is a 15.3 percent increase over 2015, which was a record year. In December, Blowing Rock TDA Executive Director Tracy Brown told High Country Press, “All in all, it’s been a fantastic year.”

Watauga County saw a 15.04 percent increase in 2016 and collected a total of $1.46 million in occupancy taxes.

Overall, Watauga County, Boone and Blowing Rock collected $4.01 million in occupancy taxes – a 20 percent increase over the $3.35 million collected in 2015.


Below are some “highlights” pertaining to Watauga County TDA that Tilley presented to the commissioners during the board’s annual retreat late last week:

Watauga TDA Highlights:

  • Closed the FY 15/16 fiscal year with an increase in occupancy tax revenue of 21.44%, which amounted to a $242,066.79 increase in occupancy tax funds over the prior fiscal year.
  • Current FY 16/17 Fiscal Year occupancy tax collections are up 10.59% over last year for July through December. This amounts to an additional $87,290.88 in occupancy tax funds six months into the fiscal year.
  • Calendar year 2016 occupancy tax collections were up 15.04% over the 2015 calendar year, which amounts to a $190,712.59 increase in occupancy tax collections in 2016. Watauga County is ranked 19th out of North Carolina’s 10 counties in terms of overall travel impact among North Carolina’s 100 Counties. {NC Commerce)
  • Domestic tourism in Watauga County generated an economic impact of $231.44 million in 2015, a 2.5% increase over 2014. {NC Commerce)
  • Local tax revenues generated by tourism in Watauga County amounted to$ 9.03 million, which is up 3.4% over the prior year. This represents a $390 tax savings to each county resident. {NC Commerce)
  • 2,640 jobs in Watauga County were directly attributable to travel & tourism in 2015. (NC Commerce)
  • The TDA continued to support the Watauga County Choose & Cut program in 2016 with a $10,000 marketing grant to the Watauga County Christmas Tree Association.
  • The Watauga County TDA continued its participation in the High Country Marketing Coop with other area TDAs and private businesses to market the NC High Country as a regional destination. This is in addition to our own marketing program.
  • The Watauga County TDA is in the third year of its current marketing campaign, entitled “Step Outside Yourself.” The advertising/marketing campaign encourages people to step away from their everyday routine and step outside themselves in the Boone area. The 2016/17 media plan developed in conjunction with our ad agency, Clean Design, includes a variety of advertising mediums including, digital, print, television, radio, social media and public relations. This spring we will add Television commercials and some out-of- home placements in the Raleigh market.
  • We launched our website in November 2014. It was built on a responsive design platform that adjust the content layout based on the type of device the consumer is using, which is important since we are experiencing more mobile users than ever before. We continue to experience significant growth in terms of website traffic and page views each year. This year we are adding a new “Biog” component to the website that will be up and running by early March

TDA Infrastructure/Product Development Projects:

  • Rocky Knob Park – Rocky Knob Park continues to be an outdoor recreation focal point for our tourism product in Watauga County. We have had some great media exposure for the park on television and in print this past year.
  • Middle Fork Greenway- The Watauga County TDA is committed to helping make the Middle Fork Greenway a reality. Over the past three years the TDA has committed $225,000 to the Middle Fork Greenway Association. The TDA will consider additional funding requests from the MFGA during the next few months.
  • Moses Cone Estate- At the request of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, the Watauga County TDA contributed to the restoration project of the Moses Cone Manor and surrounding property including trail enhancements and expanded parking. The TDA contributed $300,000 to the overall project on the house and grounds. Research conducted by the TDA over the past few years has shown that the Blue Ridge Parkway and grandfather Mountain are the top two motivators for visitation to our area. The board felt like it is important to help maintain and protect this tourist attraction on the parkway.
  • Northern Peaks Trail- The TDA contributed $30,000 to the Northern Peaks Trail Plan which included analysis on the potential economic impact and state trail eligibility. The plan also includes branding and facility design recommendation.

Upcoming:

  • The TDA will be participating in the 2017 Outdoor Recreation Summit in early April. Since the TDA produced and hosted the first Outdoor Recreation Summit in March of 2010, we feel like it is important to continue to be a part of this ongoing discussion.
  • The TDA is meeting with the Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent and his staff to discuss ways to facilitate vista clearing at many of the scenic overlooks located along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Watauga County

Upcoming:

  • The TDA will be participating in the 2017 Outdoor Recreation Summit in early April. Since the TDA produced and hosted the first Outdoor Recreation Summit in March of 2010, we feel like it is important to continue to be a part of this ongoing discussion.
  • The TDA is meeting with the Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent and his staff to discuss ways to facilitate vista clearing at many of the scenic overlooks located along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Watauga County.

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