Jackson County TDA reports significant increase in visitation and occupancy tax collections

Sylva, NC (June 21, 2016) — Visitation to Jackson County for the 2015-2016 fiscal year was the highest recorded in the four-year history of the Jackson County Tourism Development Authority (JCTDA), with occupancy tax seeing a record 9.6-percent increase for this fiscal year.

“Tourism is the number one industry in Jackson County, and the rise in occupancy tax reflects the significant increase in overnight visitors to the area,” said Nick Breedlove, executive director of the JCTDA.

The JCTDA, the official marketing organization for Jackson County, operates on a budget comprised solely of room occupancy tax, and the organization reinvests every single available dollar back into advertising and promotion to market Jackson County as a premier tourist destination. The room tax rate of four-percent is one of the lowest in the region, making lodging in Jackson County one of the most affordable draws to the county.

“Taxpayers here recognize an annual savings of $626 on their tax bills as a result of tourist investment in our economy through sales taxes and spending,” JCTDA Director Nick Breedlove said. “Tourism touches all aspects economic development, workforce and industry.” Tourists in 2014 contributed $171 million into Jackson County’ s economy, generating $38.7 million in worker paychecks. Tourism data from 2015 should be available this fall, and Breedlove expects spending to increase over last year’ s figures.

The JCTDA has had several months this fiscal year with double-digit gains over last year. April 2016 collections for March 2016 room taxes in Jackson County showed a 32-percent increase in collections over the same month last year; May collections were up 16-percent over last year.

“We are so pleased to see that the efforts of everyone coming together are paying such great dividends,”Breedlove said, citing that most destinations consider a four-to-five percent increase a success.

“We’ re near the peak in the travel and hotel booking cycle,” Breedlove said, but expects the JCTDA to continue to see positive gains due to their marketing efforts and other factors.

“There are several factors that contribute to the success of our tourism program,” Breedlove said. “Our accommodation owners deserve credit for maintaining clean, affordable and top-notch facilities that help position us as a leading destination that leaves people wanting to return. Alongside the quality of the accommodations are the hospitable and friendly service our guests receive when they are visiting any of our Jackson County partners. From restaurants to attractions and premier outdoor recreation outfitters, we have consistently heard that Jackson County is the friendliest destination that tourists have experienced.”

In addition to the hospitality industry – and recreational, culinary, arts and culture offerings – Breedlove attributes return and new visits to a highly targeted, strategic marketing program the JCTDA has implemented.

This year, the JCTDA adopted new content promotion strategies, new advertising initiatives and a quantitative study of research-based visitor profile, demographics and data to best target potential visitors and market Jackson County effectively. Social media this year alone has tripled in engagements due to the JCTDA’ s new content strategy. “That plays a large role in driving tourism,” Breedlove said, “Most people look online during the planning and booking phase before their trip. We are now analyzing tourism data in ways we’ ve never done before, to make the smartest, most targeted efforts deliver a large return on investment.”

“The Jackson County Tourism Development Authority enjoys the support of the business community, county government, Chambers of Commerce of Jackson County and Cashiers Area,” said JCTDA Chairman Robert Jumper, who added,“We have brought in expertise in tourism marketing to further enhance this very team- oriented effort. It is committed individuals like Nick Breedlove, Julie Spiro, Stephanie Edwards, Darlene Fox and our Board of Directors that have help us achieve great success. We certainly want to continue to broaden our network of people and organizations who have our goals in common and leverage all strengths together to provide a showcase, easily accessible to the traveler, of the wondrous and exciting ways they may ‘ Play On!’

“The JCTDA advertised in print, broadcast and digital media for the 2015 to 2016 fiscal year. The “Play On” branded digital ads received double the industry standard click-through rate at 0.19 percent. The investment of JCTDA funding for FOX Sports South’ s Anglers and Appetites television show has introduced Jackson County to more than 25 million viewers nationwide.

Earned media placements reached 61,908,105 readers from regional and national publications, with articles about Jackson County in Garden & Gun, Outside Magazine, Our State, WNC Magazine, Carolina Country, Charlotte Observer, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Points North Atlanta and many more.

In 2013, the JCTDA raised the occupancy tax by one percent, which contributed to a 65 percent increase in occupancy tax collections over the past four years.

“It’ s important to me that while we grow tourism, we do so sustainably in such a way that preserves our natural resources for years to come,” Breedlove said.

“We’ re very proud of our success thus far,” Breedlove said, “and we’ re just getting started. With everything in place, I don’ t see any reason we won’ t continue to increase visitation to Jackson County and, along with that, our occupancy tax. Jackson County is host to so many natural and cultural assets, we have something for everyone, from age 7 to 70.”

“One of the things I love best about our county is you don’ t have to take a big hike to get a big view,”Breedlove said. “We have some of the most accessible, scenic places in the southeast. Whether you’ re looking for a leisurely stroll to an easily-accessible waterfall and swimming hole or a grueling hike, we’ ve got you covered.”

Photo Cutline: Jackson County Tourism Director Nick Breedlove (right) leads a tour of Jackson County Tourism assets June 14 for U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis’ Western Region representative Colton Overcash (left). Along the trip they toured flyfishing assets, whitewater outdoor recreation and arts and crafts before touring a microbrewery expansion at Innovation Brewing (above). Breedlove cited tourism as the number one industry in Jackson County and the region.