By Paul Huggins, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily
A 30-percent drop in revenue during the first quarter has forced the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau to cut about $36,000 from its budget.
“It’s not a pretty picture,” said Wade Weaver, treasurer for the bureau’s board of directors. “Our expenses are not out of line, but the revenue’s not there.”
The bureau last May had budgeted to receive about $70,000 monthly in revenue but is pulling in $46,000 to $49,000. The first quarter ended with a net loss of $40,000.
The bureau is entirely funded by lodging taxes collected by the city. The city gives 75 percent to the bureau. It has received $135,978 for the first quarter of fiscal 2010 compared to $195,136 for the same period last year.
The drop in lodging tax revenue naturally mirrored the drop in revenue raised by the $2-per-night room occupancy fee that pays for tourism projects, such as Ingalls Harbor.
The fee generated $34,000 less revenue in the first quarter compared to last year.
Dana Lee Jennings, executive director of the Alabama Mountain Lakes Association, said because of the country’s economic troubles, tourism revenue is down not only across North Alabama, but at nearly every tourism destination nationwide.
Tami Reist, bureau president, said there were a variety of first quarter expenses, such as host fees for sporting events, that won’t be a revenue burden for the remaining nine months of fiscal 2010, and noted November revenue was up 4 percent.
The biggest budget cut the bureau made was renegotiating the contract with the FLW fishing tournament in November.
Scheduled television coverage was canceled, Reist said, so the bureau was able to lower the host fee by $30,000.
Other cuts included reducing the hours of the weekend greeter at the bureau office, eliminating travel to trade shows, reducing some advertising with Charter Cable and Southern Living magazine and cutting membership fees to sports associations.