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Lodging tax revenue declines in Berkeley County

August 21, 2013|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthewu@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Lodging taxes collected from hotels and motels in Berkeley County have yet to rebound to the levels of five years ago, according to figures presented Wednesday to Martinsburg-Berkeley County Convention & Visitors Bureau board members.

The convention and visitors bureau’s share of the lodging tax revenue for fiscal 2012-13 was down by more than $50,000 from the 2007-08 year, when lodging taxes generated more than $400,000 for the CVB, Executive Director Laura Gassler said.

The Martinsburg-Berkeley County Parks & Recreation Board splits the hotel/motel tax revenue with the convention and visitors bureau.

“It would be down even more if it weren’t for (Tough Mudder),” Gassler reported at the board’s regular monthly meeting. The fiscal year ended June 30.

Tough Mudder, which is slated to return to Berkeley County in October, attracted about 14,000 participants over two days in April, according to organizers. 

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Only a few smoking rooms were available at hotels in the county in the days leading up to the event, Gassler has said.

Gassler told board members Wednesday that she tried to restrain “wishful thinking” in making revenue projections for the current fiscal year, which began July 1.

She did not name two hotels that have been proposed to be built in the Martinsburg area, but noted their opening likely would help boost revenues.

County planning officials in May reviewed a developer’s sketch plan to build a 111-room Hilton Garden Inn hotel near The Commons shopping center off Exit 12 of Interstate 81, and Martinsburg planning officials in July reviewed a proposed Fairfield Inn along Foxcroft Avenue.

Gassler also reported that available state funding for tourism-promotion efforts by convention and visitors bureaus has dropped to about $800,000 due to a decline in casino-related revenues.

The matching fund requirement for grant reimbursements also has changed from 50-50 to 60-40, Gassler said after Wednesday’s meeting.

In other business Wednesday, Gassler said more than 40 “backyard” and professional barbecue teams have entered the West Virginia State BBQ Championship at this year’s Pickin’ in the Panhandle.

Country music star Kellie Pickler is slated to headline the three-day barbecue, bluegrass and country music festival, slated for Sept. 6-8 at Shiley Acres near Inwood, W.Va.

The number of entrants in the backyard competition were cut off at 17 due to space limitations, officials said Wednesday. There were at least 30 professional entrants as of Wednesday, and two others were pending, Gassler said.

The festival is making its debut at Shiley Acres next month after being held the previous six years at Lazy A Campground in Back Creek Valley. 

“I’m excited about Pickin’ this year,” said CVB Chairman Matt DeHaven, who noted that he still feels good about the board’s decision to partner with Shiley Acres. Previously, the CVB not only booked the acts for the festival, but paid for the stages, sound, lighting and generators, among other equipment for the event.

Founded in 1976, Shiley Acres is situated on 42 acres south of Martinsburg. The outdoor concert venue at 1446 Nadenbousch Lane reopened in 2012 after an extended hiatus.

More information about the festival is available online at www.panhandlepickin.com.

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