The Natchitoches Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) will undergo some big changes next month. Two of the three full time employees will be leaving for other opportunities; Kelly West to Oklahoma with her family and Leanna Coy to become a flight attendant.
CVB Executive Director Arlene Gould and the tourism board will restructure the positions to better serve the needs of the office before advertising for new employees.
The impending loss of staff was announced at the July 25 board meeting.
In the financial report, Gould stated the tax revenue was $66,000 above the same time last year. “We thank the pipeliners,” she said.
In other business, the board learned this is the 90th anniversary of the Natchitoches National Fish Hatchery, the King Kat fishing tournament will return this fall and the La. Travel Summit will be in Lake Charles Aug. 23-25.
Gould cited the La. Economic Dashboard report released the end of July that stated employment levels reached new post-pandemic highs for Natchitoches in the Spring. By mid-year, Natchitoches added 656 jobs, representing an increase of 4.1%.
According to the report, Central Louisiana saw record low unemployment rates in April. The unemployment rate for the 11 parish area reached a low of 3.2%, while Natchitoches and Alexandria reported unemployment rates of 3.0% and 2.6% respectively.
Unemployment rates such as these have not been seen in a decade or more.
The report stated travel and tourism indicators were mixed. With gas prices up 53% since January, some travel-related businesses felt the impact. For the first half of 2022, hotel occupancy tax revenues were down -3% in Avoyelles and -7% in Vernon, while Rapides saw an 8% increase. A temporary, out-of-town boost in the workforce accelerated hotel occupancy tax revenue in Natchitoches by 30% through mid-year.
Again, thank you pipeliners said the board members.
Those numbers stem from the hotel/motel occupancy tax and a bed and breakfast tax throughout the city and parish. The tax rates vary among the different areas of the parish. For example, the parish tax rate is 8.45%. That is derived from a 4.45% state tax, 2.5% school board, 1.0% parish and 0.5% sheriff’s office tax for an 8.45% total.
The City of Natchitoches has all of the above, plus an additional 2.5% city tax for a 9.95% total.
There are also economic development districts A-E that have a dedicated 2% rate and five municipalities, each generating different taxation rates. The economic development districts are the Downtown Historic District, (A) with a 10.95% rate; South of the bypass to Waterwell Road to I-49, (B); I-49 Economic Business area, (the I-49 corridor), also with a 10.95% rate, (C); a portion of Keyser Avenue, (D); and the River South Commons which will become effective Jan. 1, 2023, (E).
In addition the City Council just introduced an additional district to cover the Texas Street corridor. Voting on that proposition will be later this month.
The municipalities are Clarence, 9.45%; Campti, 9.95%; Natchez, 9.45%; Robeline, 9.45%; and Goldonna, 9.45%.
The hotel/motel tax, the CVB’s primary funding source, is 3%. The tiff tax on hotel/motel stays only applies to those facilities in districts A and C. The total tax levied inside city limits is 15.95% while it is 11.45% in the parish.
For a bed and breakfast stay, the tax rate will vary by location. Inside the city limits the rate is 12.95% while the parish rate is 11.45%.
The CVB uses these funds to promote tourism in the parish. Gould provided a report by the UNO Hospitality Research Center on direct spending and earnings by parish, or the economic impact of the tourism industry.
The report stated the Natchitoches CVB spent $55.9 million in 2019 resulting in $20.48 million earnings.
The 2021 Tourism Spending in Louisiana Parishes report by the University of New Orleans’ Hospitality Research Center stated visitors spent $55.9 million in 2019 resulting in $20.48 million in earnings for local and state.
In 2020, visitors spent $53.62 million resulting in $20.98 million in earnings.
In 2021, post-pandemic, visitors spent $80.24 million and earnings increased to $28.98 million.
Earnings are defined as the compensation of employees plus the net earnings of sole proprietors and partnerships across industries, including non-tourism related sectors.
The report also showed steady growth in hospitality and tourism related industry in the parish, jumping from .79 (in thousands) in 2019 to 1.08 (in thousands) in 2021.
Convention and Visitor’s Bureau is significant stakeholder in economic development