Tax Dollars Spent on Tourism is a Good Investment

Opinion by Patrick Welton

Hospitality leaders representing Calvert, Charles, and St. Marys’ Counties were among about 200 Maryland tourism leaders assembled at the Miller Senate Office Building in Annapolis on February 8th to meet with their state legislators to advocate for Gov. Martin O'Malley's recommended budgets for the Maryland Tourism Development Board, the Office of Tourism Development, and the War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission.

Now is not the time to fight over tourism spending. In spite of a 16.9% market share increase since 2007, Maryland only saw an 1/2 of 1% increase in occupancy 2012 over 2011.

In 2012 Southern Maryland generated an estimated $438 million in Tourism sales and $14.5 million in the form of Tourism Taxes. A recent study concluded that for every dollar invested in tourism promotion Maryland realized $6 in state sales tax and more than $31 in state and local taxes. These taxes support the general funds of the operating budgets of government on the state and local levels.

Maryland and more specifically southern Calvert and St. Mary’s County have been hard hit already by the preparation for Sequestration and the reality of inevitable severe Defense budget cuts. Tourism promotion and the leveraging of the state and regional tourism assets will help to offset the effects of cuts to defense spending in revenue and associated tax dollars.

Beverly Brown, Chair of Tourism Advisory Council of the St. Mary’s County Chamber said “It is estimated that one tour bus into the region visiting tourism assets can generate $10-12K for just one single overnight visit. Recently St. Mary’s County saw a 44% increase in revenue from a previously unscheduled swimming championship utilizing the pools at the St. Mary’s College of Maryland.” Counties can leverage their recreational assets such as fields and waters to generate tourism traffic. Charles County sees an estimated $600K in economic impact for their sponsorship of the ASA Fast Pitch Girls Tournament, and $900K from FLW / Walmart Bass Fishing League’s - Northeast Potomac River Tournament.

Tourism assets like Jefferson Patterson Park, Historic St. Mary’s City, Sotterley Plantation and other venues play host to destination weddings. While not specifically designed to generate tax revenue, in the hands of the tourism community, bring value back to the state and region. Lisa Kelley of Canard Catering and Event Production, a southern Maryland owned and operated boutique catering firm specializing in custom weddings said “we’ve seen destination wedding generate as much as $200K in local revenue.” but estimates the average wedding spends about $40K per event.

When approved, the funds for the Maryland Tourism Development Board, the Office of Tourism Development and the War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission are directly distributed to our local governments in the form of state marketing grants to help promote and market Southern Maryland and other regions as destinations for visitors.

Patrick Welton is General Manager of the Hampton Inn Waldorf, a property owned and managed by Cherry Cove Hospitality.

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