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Huntington industry asks city for help after pandemic-related budget loss

West Virginia

HUNTINGTON, WV (WOWK) — It’s common knowledge now that the pandemic is causing major problems for a lot of industries. Now, one industry in Huntington is asking the city for assistance.

The Huntington Area Convention and Visitors Bureau receives most of it’s funding from one source. Unfortunately, it’s a source that has been hit hard by the pandemic. Now, it’s up to the city council whether to approve the proposed funding.

“Right now it’s just about survival, even, because you know we’ve all been effected by this.”

Tyson Compton, president, Huntington Area Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Huntington Area Convention and Visitors Bureau has one goal:

“It’s all about economic development: the restaurants, the attractions, the hotels, they all require people coming to our area and spending money there.” 

Tyson Compton, president, Huntington Area Convention and Visitors Bureau

The bureau’s job is to attract those tourists through clever marketing, but because of the drop in travel due to the pandemic, they’re having trouble now, too.

The Convention and Visitors Bureau here in Huntington gets 99 percent of it’s funding from the tax on the sales of hotel rooms. However, with this industry suffering massive profit loss, the budget of the bureau has fared equally badly.

Receptionist at a local DoubleTree hotel, one of many hotels in the area that contributes to the bureau’s room tax revenue.

“Unfortunately, because we’re funded through the hotel tax, our income since March has dropped a little bit over 60 percent.”

Tyson Compton, president, Huntington Area Convention and Visitors Bureau

Compton says that’s a loss of 200 thousand dollars. Now, they’re asking the city for some assistance.

“We’ve requested this 100 thousand dollars which will go all toward marketing the Huntington area.”

Tyson Compton, president, Huntington Area Convention and Visitors Bureau

Hotel sales director Desiree Besemer agrees the hotel industry is still suffering.

“I’d say from what we were at last September, we’re at about half of what we are now. And on top of that, rates are so much lower than they were a year ago.” 

Desiree Besemer, sales director, DoubleTree Hotel

Which means even less room tax revenue from the business hotels are still getting, making this money from the city that much more important to the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Even current travelers have noticed the drop in people out and about.

“I can see the diminishing of people on the road and people at hotels as well.” 

Joel Brown, visitor from Virginia Beach

“So the more people we can bring safely into the community, the more economic development we’ll bring to the area.” 

Tyson Compton, president, Huntington Area Convention and Visitors Bureau

The proposal for the additional funding will go before the City Council on the 28th of September. If passed, the money will come from the city’s general fund.

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