TELL CITY – An increase in the number of long-term hotel stays in Tell City is reducing the amount of income the county’s convention and visitors bureau receives to promote Perry County, the bureau’s director said. It’s also steering some events away from the county.
“It’s a growing problem for us in particular because we have so few hotels to begin with, but it’s an issue around the state,” said Betty Cash, director of the visitors bureau. Nearly all of the group’s funding comes from a 5 percent innkeeper’s tax paid by people who stay in the county’s hotels, motels, cabins and bed-and-breakfasts.
Perry County is home to two hotels, the Ramada Limited and Holiday Inn Express and Suites, and one motel, the Knights Inn. Their customers pay the tax at checkout but Cash said long-term tenants, those staying longer than 30 days, don’t pay the innkeeper’s tax. Cash said the biggest issue is at the Ramada, which has been leasing rooms on a long-term basis to employees of WGS and other employers.
Cash said a statewide association of visitors bureaus has long-term goals of changing the state law that allows hotels to waive the tax on long-term guests.
Until then, Cash has been trying to raise awareness with hotel owners and managers, as well as local officials. She said innkeeper’s tax revenue in the county is down about 10 percent.
The long-term stays also reduce the number of available rooms organizers of events, such as fishing tourneys and conventions, need in order to bring a gathering to a community, Cash said.
“We want them to know that it affects our revenue but just as importantly, it impacts how many rooms we can offer to large groups who might come into the area.
Recently, organizers of a fishing tourney asked the county CVB how many rooms it could provide for an event that had to be rescheduled from another Hoosier city. Cash said there were not enough rooms available and the tourney chose another community.
The Holiday Inn has 66 rooms, the Ramada has 58 rooms and the Knights Inn has 45. The Knights Inn has more rooms but they are either not being used due to their condition or leased to family members.
The number of available rooms, she said, is sometimes small, due to long-term stays and seasonal demand from Holiday World.
Not only does the loss of the local innkeeper’s tax take its toll on the CVB, but local businesses such as gas stations and restaurants who might have otherwise served those hotel guests also lose out.
“It’s not just us, but local businesses and the county in general who miss out on that potential revenue,” she said. Cash and CVB representatives, including Katie Pappano and Joan Hess, spoke last month to local elected officials, the first effort in sharing updates on projects the visitors bureau and a separate commission that actually receives the innkeeper’s tax are working on.
Cash also voiced concern that online reviews of local hotels, such as those on TripAdvisor, are not always glowing and prompt some people who would otherwise stay here to book rooms at hotels in Owensboro, Jasper, Ferdinand or Evansville. She pointed to examples of employers who sometimes recommend their employees and guests choose non-local accommodations.
Other issues related to long-term hotel stays that turn off tourists include guests grilling meals in the parking lot and those who get up for work early in the morning, slam doors and make enough noise to wake up others on the same floor.
While admitting those complaints may seem petty to some, Cash said families and others base decisions on their own past experiences and reviews left by previous guests and if they have had bad experiences, many will take their business to more family-friendly hotels.
Occasional conversation continues on a possible new hotel in the downtown of Tell City but there has been no commitment by any developer. Cash said a new hotel and a possible convention center remain big goals for the CVB in the years ahead.