Tourism and business from outside Clinton County brought a whopping $89 million into the community in 2015, according to an Oxford Economics study. That’s money that went to not only hotels, restaurants and gas stations, but also to retail stores, our schools and workforce and, in turn, produced sales and income tax revenue.
In 1997, the so-called “bed tax” on lodging stays was approved by City Council and presented to the citizens of Wilmington as a means for generating funds to attract tourists and other temporary visitors to Wilmington and Clinton County — and this would be accomplished through establishing a Convention and Visitors Bureau.
I have been a volunteer board member of the Clinton County Convention & Visitors Bureau since 2002 and I’ve seen the great work accomplished by Debbie Stamper and the CVB through the years. The CVB’s fingerprints are on many of those $89 million brought into the county last year. Indeed, the CVB has played a significant role in the city’s rebound and recovery since the devastating 2008 DHL pullout and subsequent national recession.
Wilmington City Council currently has a proposal that would take 50 percent of the city’s bed tax revenue from control of the CVB. This would be huge increase from the 10 percent Council has skimmed off the top since 1999. That’s $163,000 over the past 17 years!
No one on council can explain just how those funds were used. They were simply dropped into the big bucket that is the general fund. Who knows what great things that $163,000 could have accomplished in the hands of tourism marketing professionals in generating outside money for the community?
Council will have a final vote on this proposed 50 percent money grab later this month. The spirit of the agreement that Council made with the community in 1997 states the CVB should use this tax money to promote tourism. Let the CVB do its job to best of its ability.
I urge the community to voice its support in keeping these lodging tax funds where they will do the must good.