Hotel/Motel tax collections bounce back with best numbers since 1995

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December hotel/motel tax collections were up $18,000 compared to December 2020. That is no surprise to the Natchitoches Parish Tourism Commission (NPTC). The members heard the numbers at their first meeting of the year Tuesday, Jan. 18. Covid wreaked havoc on occupancy in 2020 and seeing the rebound was good news. The numbers reflect overnight stays in hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts and RVs.

This article published in the Jan. 22, 2022, print edition

Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) Executive Director Arlene Gould said the net collections for 2021 were the highest since 1995.
Gould told the commission the NPTC received just over $5,600 from a settlement from the Tax Commission. The NPTC pursued the back taxes for more than four years.
More exciting news is the commission has grant funds to disburse to area festivals and events. The commission received a special events grant. Funds must be used to reach people outside the parish and is reimbursable only. Applicants can receive from $5-10,000. Deadline to apply is March 18 with grants awarded in April. For more information contact Gould at  1-800-259-1714. The link to the grant application is available on their website, www.natchitoches.com.
Director of Marketing and Communications Kelli West said the City’s website has seen steady growth, there have been articles in several magazines and trade publications and the largest visitor influx to Natchitoches is from the Houston, Dallas and Shreveport areas.
Christmas Festival weekend proved to be a challenge. West said two travel writers happened to be in the area that weekend. Through her collaborations with the accommodations in the area, she found lodging for one and an RV site for the second. “The B&Bs and others are beginning to see the value of the Tourist Commission,” she said. “The B&B called to say they had a cancellation…and within 20 minutes we booked it.”
West said, “The travel writers got an immersive experience during festival weekend. One has already published a story while the other’s article will come out in December 2022.”
The Tourist Commission discussed their Master Plan and how it aligns with the City and the Natchitoches Economic Development Alliance (NEDA) plans. Each plan costs thousands. West said the City’s plan outlines the steps that need to be taken while the NEDA plan provides options to pay for it. She said there have been discussions so the plans do not overlap. Commission Chair David Guillet proposed a quarterly meeting with tourism stakeholders. The commission, as a group, said getting everyone in a room together to discuss issues, slumps and downtime is needed. “If they have a slump, they can reach out to us to help them fill those slumps,” Gould said. The commission hopes to schedule a collaborative meeting March 1.
West outlined the proposed marketing budget for the year. She said, “We must advertise outside Natchitoches to bring people here.” Natchitoches promotional ads will be in all formats with an increased focus on photo and video.
Tourism received $230,000 in Recovery funding. The commission will use $115,000 each year for the next two years. The restricted funds can only be used for tourism.
West also reported on a new operating system that will track destination travel. According to the Zartico website, the system tracks visitor volume, origin markets, time of arrival and visitor-to-resident ratio at key tourism hotspots. West said the data updates every 24 hours. It can help the commission determine the best way to allocate advertising and marketing dollars and provide invaluable feedback to stakeholders such as event organizers, accommodations and attractions. For example, West said they know the largest visitor count of the Christmas season was the second Saturday in December. “We know that Mondays had a higher visitor count than Fridays,” she said. “This may help restaurants and others determine better hours. Some are closed on Mondays and they may want to adjust to being open on Mondays and closed another day.”
She said the geotracking program can have a report on a Saturday festival available by Monday.
The commission voted to move forward with obtaining Zartico for one year. The program is used by Lafayette and other cities large and small around the state.
Guillet summarized the decision by stating, “We are the custodians of information the parish and city needs to succeed. We should go forward with it.”
The next tourist commission meeting will be Feb. 15 at 5:15 p.m.