Tourist industry lines up to tap TDA coffersWritten by Julia Merchant
Requests for Haywood Tourism Development Authority money this year ran the gamut from the predictable to events making their debut this season.
The TDA generates a pot of money from a 4 percent tax levied each time someone pays for a hotel room in the county. Three percent of that money goes into a general fund to be divvied up among the entire county, while the other 1 percent is divvied up by zip code. Each of the county’s five geographic regions — Maggie Valley, Waynesville, Lake Junaluska, Canton and Clyde — receives an amount of money proportional to the room tax they collect.
Maggie Valley, with its many hotels and motels, generates the most room tax of any zip code, and thus has the most money to give. Its zip code fielded nearly $200,000 in requests. As has been the case in the past, the biggest number of applications targeted festivals, including Run to the Valley Street Rod Show, Maggie Valley Fall Days, Mountain Music Jamboree, a Harley rally, Vettes in the Valley, and a classic auto and truck show. The TDA finance committee recommended funding for each of the events.
Big winners when it came to the TDA’s recommendations were a festival director position, for which $20,000 was recommended. This position is funded by the town of Maggie Valley and the TDA, and there is already a person hired. The Maggie Valley Lodging Association’s request for advertising to motorcycles also made out well, with a TDA recommended amount of $11,600. The money will go to fund a Speed channel advertising package.
The TDA extended conservative funding recommendations to Ghost Town in the Sky, the Maggie Valley theme park that recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Some of the requests were denied funding, such as the park’s Gospel Sundays series and its request for an Industry Partnership with the TDA. The TDA did agree to provide some money for a Ghost Town Media Day, though to the tune of $1,500 rather than the $4,000 Ghost Town requested. Ghost Town’s request for co-op advertising was also granted, though only half of the $10,630 requested was recommended.
Ghost Town CEO Steve Shiver didn’t show up for a public hearing on TDA funding requests, though he was scheduled to speak. Shiver’s absence didn’t appear to help the park’s case. The TDA is already reluctant to extend money to the theme park due to concerns over whether it will be able to open this season.
“On my cheat sheet here, I’ve got a big fat zero” next to Ghost Town, remarked TDA Finance Committee member Ron Reid as the committee went down a list of funding requests.
The TDA fielded a diverse list of requests for Waynesville’s 1 percent money. Among them: $3,000 for a traveling Vietnam Wall, $3,000 to light the Public Art sculpture in downtown Waynesville, $3,000 for an Appalachian Lifestyle Celebration and $3,000 for a Wine and Winter Festival in downtown Waynesville.
The recommendation to award $11,605 to the Downtown Waynesville Association for co-op advertising sparked a debate over where advertising dollars being spent — in this case, some ads are placed in local publications like The Smoky Mountain News, The Mountaineer and the Asheville Citizen-Times. TDA members questioned how effective those venues are for reaching a regional audience.
“Co-op advertising is a great idea, but we’re advertising in all the wrong places,” said Reid.
More of the pie
A variety of events tapped into the TDA’s 3 percent pot of money. The finance committee put its stamp on funding amounts requested for a Haywood County Agricultural brochure, Smoky Mountain 9-ball and Wheelchair Tournament, the Fines Creek Bluegrass Jam, and Maggie Valley’s Miss Maggie program.
Not every request was met with complete approval. A play in honor of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s 75th anniversary was awarded less than the requested amount after TDA members determined that some of the money was going to fund entertainment.
“I didn’t think that we paid for storytellers and dancers. I thought we paid for advertising and brochures,” said TDA Finance Committee member Marion Hamel. “I think it’s a great thing to do, but I don’t think we should be paying for the entertainment.”
The TDA also modified a request for money to help advertise a golf package deal featuring the Waynesville Inn Golf Resort and Spa and the Maggie Valley Country Club. Members agreed to award the requested $150 on the condition that the Lake Junaluska Golf Course be invited to become a part of the deal.
The TDA board will vote on the funding recommendations April 22.