Full house: Jackson sees growth in hotel stays

David Thomas, The Jackson Sun 6 p.m. CST December 19, 2015

The Country Inn & Suites is located at 1935 Emporium Drive.(Photo: DAVID THOMAS/The Jackson Sun)Buy Photo

An increase in the amount of advertising dollars and development of new events to attract tourists are viewed as some of the main reasons hotel/motel tax revenue continues to rise in Jackson and Madison County. For the first 10 months of 2015, $1,429,144 has been generated in hotel/motel tax revenue, which is an increase of 11.7 percent compared with the same period in 2014. The increase in actual hotel room sales was almost $3 million. The best month was October, when $164,643 in hotel/motel taxes was collected a 24.46 percent increase over October 2014.

Gov.

Haslam increased the amount of advertising dollars to $19 million for fiscal year 2014 through 2016, Lori Nunnery, the executive director of the Jackson Convention and Visitors Bureau, said. There s also the work of the tourism task force, and the growth in the tourism attractions and the increased hotel rates in Memphis and Nashville. They are displacing drivers and most (travelers) have to come through here. For fiscal year 2013-14, the state allocated an additional $8 million for advertising; $4 million for fiscal 2014-15, and fiscal 2015-16 will see an influx of $7 million.

We re doing OK, and we could be happy with OK, but do you want to do great? Kyle Spurgeon, president/CEO of the Jackson Chamber, said. Tourists generate dollars, and the money they leave behind benefits schools, law enforcement and roads. We have the opportunity to pull more of that money into the community.

Full House: Jackson Sees Growth In Hotel StaysBuy Photo

Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott opened an 82-room hotel in August, at 1335 Vann Drive. (Photo: DAVID THOMAS/The Jackson Sun)

The Convention and Visitors Bureau splits the first $975,000 of hotel and motel tax revenue with the city and county. The city and county each receive about 40 percent and Nunnery s office receives about 20 percent, capped at $193,000. Due to an inter-local agreement with the city and county, any hotel and motel tax revenues over $975,000 are allocated to the Sportsplex debt. The agreement ends in December 2016.

It is our hope the money will return to us, and the cap goes away, Nunnery said. Nunnery, who also serves on the state s Tourism Committee, sees how the additional tax revenue could help, and she knows how those dollars could be spent.

Our goal is to bring more people here, Nunnery said.

For someone staying overnight in Jackson, the tax revenue is $27.60, and if they come into town just for the day, it s $7.90 per person, so it s important to get these people to stay overnight. An overnight visitor in Tennessee will spend about $184 per day. Nunnery said for every 1,000 visitors who stay in a hotel overnight, their spending creates an additional economic impact of $391 per person, which is equivalent to $391,000. That impact includes money spent by hotels, restaurants and other businesses as a result of the tourists spending, and money spent by the businesses employees.

There is a ripple effect of that dollar, Nunnery said. That is equivalent to 9.5 full-time jobs. The day-tripper (creates an economic impact of) $120 (the equivalent to $120,000) or equal to 3.2 full-time jobs. You ve seen new events over the last few years the Rockabilly Grand Prix and the Urban Challenge (for instance), and they are growing, continuing to bring in visitors.

Full House: Jackson Sees Growth In Hotel StaysBuy Photo

A Discount Holidays © Holiday Inn Express & Suites is located within walking distance of the West Tennessee Healthcare Sportsplex and the Ballpark at Jackson. (Photo: DAVID THOMAS/The Jackson Sun)

The Rockabilly Grand Prix is a cycling event and the Urban Challenge, where participants run, jump, climb and crawl, is held on an obstacle course throughout downtown Jackson. Nunnery said the area has become a destination for club soccer, travel baseball and travel softball programs.

Travel ball has had a substantial impact, and the West Tennessee Healthcare Sportsplex has helped develop that, Nunnery said. But there is more potential more great things, such as the new tennis complex.

The 10-court tennis complex, which had it ribbon cutting Dec.

2, was constructed near the dormant Highland Green Golf Club on North Highland Avenue. The hopes are the complex will host regional and state tournaments, which should require overnight stay by some of those participating. Potential exists to increase the number of attendees at the Amphitheater at the Market, the International Rockabilly Hall of Fame and the Music Museum at the Carnegie, each within walking distance downtown.

Nunnery said Jackson falls within the Americana Music Triangle that incorporates Nashville, Memphis and New Orleans on what is called the Gold Record Road.

It s geared toward the international traveler, Nunnery said. The state is also working on the Tennessee Pathway, which is a trail from East to West Tennessee and covers all the (tourist) assets. Nunnery said she is stretching her funds to encourage tourists to make a stop in Jackson.

We try to cover as much as we can, Nunnery said. We have to be open to everything the arts, history and the Civil War, festivals, music events, outdoors and sports because what is attractive to one traveler is not attractive to another. Nunnery said tourist attractions in surrounding communities also enhance the possibility of someone visiting Jackson.

Shiloh and Discovery Park can only help, Nunnery said.

When we sell Jackson, we have to sell West Tennessee. It s part of what we offer, and the other locations are another arrow in our arsenal. Oneal Odhav, who owns the Country Inn & Suites at 1935 Emporium Drive, has seen an uptick in business since the hotel re-opened in August 2014, after a renovation.

Full House: Jackson Sees Growth In Hotel StaysBuy Photo

Oneal Odhav owns the Country Inn & Suites by Carlson at 1935 Emporium Drive. (Photo: DAVID THOMAS/The Jackson Sun)

It s hard to gauge especially during the summer months but we are seeing a higher rate of tourists, Odhav said. They don t make it to Memphis and they pull into Jackson that s what I m hearing from them. Odhav said some tourists have destinations besides Nashville or Memphis.

Some are going to Branson, Missouri, and (Jackson) is a great break for them, Odhav said.

Jackson will gain momentum if we continue to advertise. Odhav said he is hoping to gain more traction due to the Sportsplex, which hosts youth travel ball games.

I would say we have seen more visitors and will see more visitors in the coming year, Odhav said. We saw a lot of parents come in and stay with us during the Miss Tennessee Pageant. Odhav does his part to support the Jackson Generals, the Southern League s Double-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners.

We try to encourage those who are visiting to go to the ball games, Odhav said. A lot of our guests are staying on a weekly basis or a weeknight, and they are looking for something to do.

Mayor Jerry Gist said hotel and motel revenue is up statewide, which is a good sign for Jackson.

We benefit from Memphis and Nashville, and Jackson is a good place to stop and rest, and any revenue that comes in helps keep our property taxes low, something we need to continue to do, Gist said. We re doing a lot locally with music that includes free events and programs at the Ned (The Ned R. McWherter West Tennessee Cultural Arts Center). The Old Country Store at Casey Jones Village, the Miss Tennessee Scholarship Pageant and the Sportsplex do much of the heavy lifting when it comes to bringing tourists into town.

The city-owned Sportsplex, which opened in 2006, came with a price tag of $13.5 million. Next door, the Ballpark at Jackson, which welcomed professional baseball in 1998, was built for $8 million. Gist said once the debt on the Ballpark at Jackson, the 6,000-seat home of the Jackson Generals, and the Sportsplex is paid, a number of options exist.

We want to redirect the funding that will be available, Gist said. With the Sportsplex, the Ballpark at Jackson and the Sky Zone, we want to make that an entertainment district. That will help as far as tourism is concerned, and we re still in negotiations, but we re looking at a conference center and hotel near the baseball stadium.

Gist said a new conference center and hotel will not affect events at the Carl Perkins Civic Center downtown.

The civic center is used mainly for West Tennesseans, the arts the Jackson Symphony, merchandise marts, trade shows, Gist said. It s more of a cultural venue, and it s not used as a conference center. Thus, the need for a hotel/convention center.

Let s say an insurance company has 500 people come in, and they meet all day, but you do not have an adjacent hotel, and the hotel where you are staying is five miles away, Gist said. There are a number of state conferences that are always looking for venues that are affordable for members.

Gist said he did not believe a new hotel/convention center would hurt the downtown area, and neither would a new multi-purpose arena hurt Oman Arena.

We have a core committee put together, Gist said. Do we renovate the Civic Center and Oman Arena, or do we get them oriented toward a master plan. There will be a number of options guided by the citizens of our city, and what they need to be. Gist said the price tag for a new arena is in the $25 million to $30 million range.

There are options for Oman Arena, Gist said. Perhaps we can redevelop like we did the LIFT (Wellness Center) and partner with Lane College, and let the arena be their home. It is too good of a building structurally.

Madison County Mayor Jimmy Harris said the Community Economic Development Commission, which includes the Convention and Visitors Bureau, has done well with little funding.

We have to do more to impact tourism, Harris said. The city and the county felt so strong, we contributed an additional $25,000 each. Tourism is one of the largest industries in this community, and it is in the state. Harris said 1,677 people work in tourism-related fields in Jackson and Madison County.

Hotels, restaurants, and if you look at it from an investment standpoint, every dollar we attract does not cost in infrastructure. You have 40,000 automobiles on the interstate, and it costs us no more if it increases to 60,000. Every dollar we have, is dollars we didn t have when they pulled in here.

Reach David Thomas at (731) 425-9637.

Follow him on Twitter: @dgthomasbiz

Increased tax revenue

The following shows the amount of hotel/motel tax revenue collected by the city and county each month through October of this year, and the percentage growth compared with that month in 2014:

  • January, $94,588.52 collected, -1.63% growth
  • February, $106,682.97 collected, 8.47% growth
  • March, $132,761.12 collected, 3.35% growth
  • April, $139,121.34 collected, 5.61% growth
  • May, $152,628.50 collected, 8.26% growth
  • June, $168,612.24 collected, 16.68% growth
  • July, $176,198.74 collected, 19.35% growth
  • August, $147,877.69 collected, 8.91% growth
  • September, $146,029.85 collected, 18.32% growth
  • October, $164,642.91 collected, 24.46% growth
  • Year to date, $1,429,143.88 collected, 11.71% growth

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