Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Storms, Sports kept local hotels booked

Decatur lodging tax revenues up 11 percent in fiscal 2011  
By Seth Burkett Th Decatur Daily
Devastating storms, sporting events and industry kept tourism revenue in Decatur vibrant this past fiscal year despite a struggling economy, officials said.
The city collected $704,000 in lodging taxes from October 2010 to September 2011, an 11-percent increase, said Tami Reist, president of the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.
“Right now we’re about $130,000 to $140,000 up from last year,” said Anthony Viator, sales manager for Country Inn and Suites on Bank Street Northeast. “Every month has been better than it was last year. With corporate travel, it’s been up. With groups, it’s been up.”
Following the April 27 tornadoes in the Tennessee Valley, many relief workers and people displaced from their homes stayed in hotels.
“It’s not a good thing, but those tornadoes brought a lot of government agencies in town and a lot of contractors,” Viator said. “We actually had several people staying here for whom we set good rates for a long term while they worked with their insurance agencies, and then we had one family stay here whose whole house was blown away.”
Those are not typical sources of tourism revenue, but hotel-motel receipts fall under the tourism budget.
“I don’t like using that as a plus,” Viator said. “But that one month with the tornadoes, we made more revenue lodging than we ever have in the past four years.
“So if that went across the board in Decatur, I’m sure they made a lot of money, too.”
Following the storms, two state soccer tournaments were canceled, creating rooms for workers and evacuees.
“We lost that business to Gulf Shores,” Reist said of the sporting events. “But with that devastation we would not have been able to take them on.”
Reist said it was a growing year aside from the tornadoes.
She said the area saw an uptick in lodging taxes brought in by events and industry.
Reist said the third and fourth quarters of fiscal 2011 brought many festivals, sporting events and fishing tournaments to the River City.
More large events took place during the spring.
The biggest event was the President’s Cup soccer tournament at the Jack Allen complex in June, which generated 1,090 room nights in Decatur and more than 4,000 throughout Morgan, Limestone and Madison counties, Reist said.
“We had to use the Von Braun Center for the opening ceremonies,” she said of the Huntsville arena. “... Anytime you have to go to Huntsville to welcome people, that’s a big event.”
“That Jack Allen complex is a major impact when it comes to bringing soccer teams from all over the states,” Viator said. “The same thing with Ingalls Harbor. We’re going to see more and more fishing tournaments coming here.”
Reist estimated about 10,000 people attended a Colt Ford concert held in conjunction with the Bassmaster Elite Series Dixie Duel Tournament in June.
“That sort of weekend business is great, but during the week, our industry is rolling,” Reist said.
Reist said companies such as Nucor, 3M and Daikin have been expanding or having outages during which they bring in crews for maintenance and repair.

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