Tourism in Franklin County was off a little bit in 2018, but the culprit was not a higher hotel tax.
“The late spring and the wet summer and early fall did impact visitation,” said Janet Pollard, executive director of the Franklin County Visitors Bureau.
Communities across the region have experienced one of the wettest – and grayest — years on record.
Even so, occupancy in local hotels came close to that in prior years, Pollard said.
Revenue for the tax that the county collects on overnight stays in motels is projected to increase in 2019.
The county expects to get more than $1.2 million in 2019, up from the $1 million budgeted in 2018, according to Commissioner David Keller.
“We had more accurate historic figures, so we increased projected collections,” County Administrator Carrie Gray said.
The tax is split between the visitors’ bureau (80 percent) and the county (20 percent) after a 4 percent administration fee is applied.
Spending tax money
The motel tax revenue pumps up the county’s tourism industry.
“Reinvesting the room tax in promotion to build awareness of Franklin County grows visitation and tourism spending, which averages more than $320 million annually,” Pollard said.
The county’s hotel sector exceeds $22 million, and tourism supports about 2,500 direct jobs.
The visitors’ bureau has used its share of the hotel tax:
- To establish the Certified Tourism Ambassador program. More than 100 people are CTS. A Chesapeake Bay Funders Grant also helped with the program.
- To develop exhibits telling the county’s stories of history, art, recreation and fresh food at the Franklin County 11/30 Visitors Center. FCVB bought the former bank building on Memorial Square in 2016 as a gateway to exploring all of Franklin County.
- To expand the schedule of tours around the county.
The visitor’s bureau plans at least seven tours in 2019:
- February — “Freedom Seekers and Equality.”
- March – “Famous Women of Franklin County.”
- April — Spring into History Month focusing on the Civil War and industrial history in Waynesboro, frontier and colonial history in Mercersburg and Fort Loudon, and using local history and cultural assets in personal enrichment and education.
- May – Harriet Lane, First Lady of Franklin County.
- June – Barn Quilt Square Trail & Tour.
- September — Franklin County and the Conservation Movement
- October — Farming in Franklin County, Cumberland Valley bank barns, and Fall Foliage.
The county uses nearly all of its share of the motel tax for the Tourism and Quality of Life Enhancement Grant program, Gray said.
The grant program has given more than $1.5 million to more than 30 community projects since 2014. In 2018, $235,000 went to 12 programs – most recently The grant is also funded through Marcellus Shale impact fees.
Since its inception in 2014, the Franklin County Tourism and Quality of Life Enhancement Grant has allocated over $1.5 million to more than 30 local projects – most recently $10,000 for repairs to the volunteer firefighters’ museum in Chambersburg and $14,000 to help restore the High Line Train Station in Greencastle.
The county increased its hotel tax from 3 percent to 5 percent in June 2017. This year was the first full year of collecting the tax, and projected collections increased by $430,000, according to Gray.
Precipitation can be a localized event, especially with summer thunderstorms:
- York got more than 61 inches of rain to make it the community’s wettest year on record, and breaking the previous mark set in 2011.
- Hagerstown, Md., had its second wettest year in 120 years with more than 66 inches of precipitation, second only to 76.7 inches in 1996.
- About 58.5 inches fell in Shippensburg, more than in 2011, but far less than in 1996.
- Harrisburg fell short far short of the record 70.5 inches that fell in 2011.
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