OUR OPINION: Tupelo CVB’s success isn’t taken for granted

Tupelo’s Convention and Visitors Bureau continued its impressive run of revenue increases in the 2013 fiscal year – the 27th consecutive year of growth generated by the 2 percent sales tax on restaurant, hotel and motel revenue.

The total in FY 2013, which ended Sept. 30, was $3.86 million, 4 percent more than in budget year 2012. The tourism tax funds promotional work of the CVB, partially pays off bonds on the BancorpSouth Arena, and underwrites special projects approved by its virtually autonomous board of directors.

However, nothing is taken for granted by CVB’s leadership, as Executive Director Neal McCoy told Daily Journal Business Editor Dennis Seid in an interview earlier this week.

McCoy reiterated his concerns Wednesday, particularly about a double-digit drop in hotel occupancy, one of the categories generating revenue from the 2 percent tax that has been in place since 1986 for hotels and 1990 for restaurants.

McCoy said he and the CVB staff are analyzing figures to understand what specifically may have caused the drop.

McCoy said the bureau’s three sales managers – working for sporting events, smaller-group conventions and overnight trips – will redouble their efforts to bring additional travelers, tourists and shoppers to Tupelo.

The CVB’s website lists 2,000 “sleeping rooms” available in the city, plus convention facilities.

McCoy noted that the 1987 Highway Program and the resulting four-lane highways connecting in Tupelo from all directions makes some overnight travel unnecessary, but it also increases the convenience of day-trip shopping from cities like Oxford, Columbus and Starkville. Because most hotels and motels have strong business-related occupancy during the work week, McCoy said more effort will be spent in drawing people to Tupelo for weekend overnight leisure travel.

McCoy said it is difficult to calculate a precise number of tourism-related visitors, but he said in 2012-2013 the bureau has provided about 50,000 hospitality/gift packs for attendees of events that request CVB’s assistance. That number includes athletic events in the city’s parks, conventions and meetings and also family reunions.

McCoy also said a majority of the revenue from the tourism tax is from restaurant sales. CVB receives a lump-sum check from the state Bureau of Revenue, but it can calculate a division of sources from secondary reports.

McCoy’s realism in preparing for a challenging year is the first essential step toward sustaining CVB’s long run of success.