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Tourism agency expects to break even or better

December 02, 2010|By KATE S. ALEXANDER | kate.alexander@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — Leaders of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau said Thursday that the tourism agency could break even or even end 2010 in the black after three straight years of revenue decline.
In addition, if lodging continues to rebound, financial projections for 2011 show the agency with balanced spending and no debt, they said.
The CVB held its annual membership meeting Thursday morning at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in Hagerstown to brief members and the public on its finances and projections for the future.
“The state of the CVB is strong,” President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Riford said.
The agency ended October with a $1,200 surplus, said Les Curry of Curry and Company CPA, accountant for the bureau.
“We are looking at a break-even year,” Curry said.
It was also on track to pay off a $46,000 line of credit by the end of this year or early next year, said Tim Henry, treasurer of the CVB board of directors.
Carrie Cirrito, chairwoman of the board, said the agency could end the year in the black depending on December’s lodging tax revenue check.  
The organization operated with a deficit in 2007, 2008 and 2009, according to tax documents and its 2009 audited financial report.
Riford said he was optimistic that 2011 would continue on a similar upward trend.
He presented the agency’s draft 2011 budget on a single powerpoint slide that included the following four line-items:

  • $947,000 Anticipated Revenue
  • $459,000 Promotional Expenses
  • $164,000 Operational Expenses
  • $324,000 Administrative Expenses
No other budgetary figures were presented.
Riford credited growing tourism for swinging the agency’s finances toward the plus side.
Visits to the county’s top attractions were up for 2010, as were room visits and retail sales, he said.
Antietam National Battlefield saw 900,000 total paid and unpaid visitors in 2010, up from 740,000 visits in 2009, he said.
South Mountain State Recreation Area, which includes Greenbrier State Park, had more than 637,000 visits in 2010, he said.  In 2009, South Mountain State Park and Greenbrier together had 600,000 visits, Riford said previously.
Greenbrier also sold out 21 times in 2010, he said Thursday.
As of October, the lodging tax revenue in calendar year 2010 was up 6 percent from 2009, when the CVB reported receiving $751,738 in lodging tax revenue.
Riford did not provide a figure for how much lodging tax had been collected in 2010 to date.
Curry said that total revenue for 2010 will likely total about $900,000.
Washington County is not expecting to add hotel rooms in 2011, but a hotel that declared bankruptcy two years ago will begin repaying back taxes in addition to future taxes, effectively increasing lodging tax revenue, Riford said.
Hotel occupancy increased 3.2 percent from 2009, with some lodging properties reporting 20 percent more occupants in October 2010 than in October 2009, he said. Exact lodging figures were not presented by Riford.
He also did not present any retail sales figures, but said previously that the Hagerstown Premium Outlets, formerly the Prime Outlets at Hagerstown, is the county’s top tourist attraction, drawing 5.6 million shopping visits in 2009.
Riford said he is banking on key increases continuing in calendar year 2011, but added that the CVB will continue to operate conservatively.
None of the CVB’s staff members will receive a pay increase for 2011, he said.
Likewise, the agency will cut back hours at its Visitor Welcome Center on North Potomac Street in Hagerstown during the winter, he said.
The welcome center will close at 4 p.m. through the week and will be closed on Sundays, he said.
The annual meeting of the CVB also included a presentation by Liz Shatto, director of Maryland’s Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area.
The CVB recently partnered with the state organization to open a Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area welcome center in Sharpsburg, and, with the help of a heritage area grant, jointly employ a staff member.

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