Tourist group advocates for more marketing money

A 1 percent hike in the city lodging tax could raise $200,000 a year for marketing efforts that could help Waynesboro build what is already a $28 million a year industry. The tax increase is in City Manager Mike Hamp’s proposed 2011-2012 budget – but the money from it is earmarked toward the general fund.

“We supply 10 to 12 percent of the taxes to the city’s general operating fund. To have $22,000 redirected back to an industry that provides that type of revenue, in excess of $4 million a year, it’s just paltry,” said Perry Fridley, the owner and managing partner of the Best Western Waynesboro Inn, at a news conference organized by the Tourism Association of Greater Waynesboro on Wednesday to discuss the tourism-funding issue.

Hamp’s budget includes $22,500 for tourism marketing. Neighboring localities in Staunton, Harrisonburg, Charlottesville and Lexington are committing upwards of $150,000 to $200,000 annually on tourism marketing in what Fridley said is “a very competitive industry.”

There is certainly money out there to be made. Just down 250, Staunton’s tourism industry generates nearly $50 million a year for the Queen City economy.

“What we’re advocating for is an effective tourism program, and to get that, you have to fund it,” Fridley said.

The Tourism Association approached members of Waynesboro City Council last year with the idea for using a lodging-tax increase to provide increased funding for tourism marketing.

“We’d like to be at parity with our surrounding areas, but that’s not realistic,” said Clair Myers, the chair of the Tourism Association of Greater Waynesboro.

“We proposed a 1 percent increase that would not tax local citizens, would not be a tax increase that one would communicate as part of that no-tax kind of posture, but would still give us an investment in the tourism industry,” Myers said.

“We’ve not asked them to pay for it. We’ve given them the means with which to pay for it,” Fridley said. “To take that means and apply it toward the general fund … it’s very frustrating at this point.”

Video: AFP reports on the Tourism Association news event

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