HUNTINGTON, WV (WOWK) — New information has been published about the staggering toll COVID-19 has had on city, county, and state budgets.
It’s common knowledge that COVID-19 has put a damper on vacations and travel, but what is little known is that the loss of revenue is having a very big budget impact.
Tyson Compton, president of the Huntington Convention and Visitors Bureau, says it effects his whole operation.
“It’s a serious issue for us,” Compton said.
“The Convention and Visitors Bureau, as most bureau’s around the state and around the country, is funded on the room tax on hotels, for us its hotels in Cabell County,” Compton said.
But in a pandemic world, room tax and revenue for bureau’s like his in cities and counties has all but disappeared.
New data compiled by Oxford Economics for the American Hotel and Lodging Association show a loss of nearly 17-billion dollars in hotel and lodging tax revenue.
In West Virginia, it’s a whopping $223 million. In Ohio, it’s a loss of $242 million and Kentucky has taken a $134 million dollar hit.
“We’ve had to cut back in every possible area that we can. Unfortunately, part of that cutback was in advertising, which is really the first place you don’t want to take a hit,” Compton said.
Without an advertising budget, people don’t find out about activities, events, and economic opportunities in our communities.
“If these folks aren’t coming, then it’s not just that the bureau isn’t making money, it’s that we don’t have people in these stores, in these restaurants, at the hotels. So our whole region takes a hit in that case,” Compton said.
It’s a vicious circle, with wider implications.
Bill Bissett, CEO of the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce, says it’s indicative of a wider problem.
“I think it goes beyond the loss of dollars to also reflect that people don’t come here and see how great this place is. We not only lose that revenue, but we also lose the experience that people then take home about, you know, Huntington is a great place to shop, live, have a business,” Bissett said.
Desiree Besemer of Doubletree in downtown Huntington says the loss of revenue is just a symptom of a bigger problem.
“We’re just an indicator of what else is going on in the community, or not going on. I mean it’s really, we’re all connected in a way, it’s not one or the other, we all win or lose together in this one,” Besemer said.
Despite the decline in tax revenues, local officials and hotel managers are optimistic about the future.
“At this time we are being hopeful because we’ve seen numbers gradually increase,” Compton said.
“It’s a setback, but one that in the end we’ll end up being stronger for,” Besemer added.
With COVID-19 cases spiking again, officials said it’s hard to say when these losses might be recouped, if at all.