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Ohio Valley hotel slowdown follows gas decline

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — Officials on both sides of the river are attributing a slowdown in hotel/motel tax collections in the area to a reduction in the natural gas business.

“We have seen some pullback from the overnight stays related to the gas business. We are keeping an eye on it on a month-to-month basis to see if we need to alternate our revenue projections,” said Mark Lewis, president and CEO of the Greater Parkersburg Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Lewis said he has talked to individuals in the oil/gas business.

“I have talked to people in different venues to gauge their opinions on how long or how deep they think the pullback might be; it’s not as extensive as they thought it would be, but it’s obviously something we are keeping an eye on,” Lewis said.

The Marietta-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau also reports transient guest tax collections were down.

The agency received for the first quarter of 2015 revenue of $77,696, which was down about 18.77 percent from 2014 when total revenue for the first three months of the year generated $95,654.

The Marietta CVB and the city of Marietta each received 3 percent of Marietta’s 6 percent hotel/motel tax in 2015; only 1.5 percent is required.

City and bureau officials in Marietta earlier announced that starting this year the bureau’s share would drop a half percent and another half percent next year.

Lewis said he is hopeful the lower gasoline prices will translate into more tourism for the area.

“Lower gas prices usually mean more people traveling. So we hope to pick up more visitors,” he said.

The bureau, by code, must be given at least 50 percent of the hotel/motel tax collections.

Lewis said those funds go to advertising and marketing.

“We target most of it regionally. We have found our main markets are in western Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia is a great market for us and northern Kentucky. You can insert in large national publications for the Midwest, in travel sections; we can buy for targeted states, regions and that’s where we spend the majority of those funds,” Lewis said.

Annually the bureau generates a visitors guide.

“That is one of the primary tools that is a fulfillment piece. When people call in, or through online, or other inquiries. The guide is geared to get people to call or go to the website, which is another major tool,” Lewis said.

The CVB director said the website is undergoing changes. Those improvements will be completed in about three to four months, he said.

The county hotel/motel tax collections come from the 6 percent bed occupation tax on those businesses in the part of the county that is outside corporate limits. The municipalities have their own hotel tax.

In March, Lewis announced hotel/motel tax collections were up 18.5 percent and would allow the bureau to increase its marketing/advertising budget by about 30 percent.

Wood County Clerk Mark Rhodes said February and March were a “little light” for county hotel/motel tax collections. “But it’s still on the plus side over previous years,” he noted.

The county received $481,282 in 2010-2011 in hotel/motel tax; $540,683 in 2011-2012; $605,136 in 2012-2013; $725,321 in 2013-2014 and through March of this year, the total is $585,781.

The largest single month for collections was $75,410 in May 2013-2014 followed by July 2014-2015, when collections were $74,726.

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