The Watauga County Board of Commissioners attended a special meeting on Monday, March 28, 2011, in the Broyhill Room at Broyhill Inn, ASU, Boone, NC.  The Intergovernmental Retreat agenda included presentations focused on tourism.  Those present were:  Chairman Miller, Vice-Chairman Blust, Commissioner Deal, Commissioner Futrelle, Commissioner Gable, County Manager Nelson, Deputy County Manager Geouque, and Clerk to the Board Fogle.  Others present were as follows:


·         Appalachian State University:  Interim VC for Business Affairs Greg Lovins; and Dr. Melissa Weddell, Department of Health, Leisure, and Exercise Science

·         Town of Beech Mountain:  Mayor Rick Owen; Council Members Alan Holcombe and Rick Miller; Town Manager Randy Feierabend; and Town Clerk Jessica Heaton

·         Town of Blowing Rock:  Mayor J. B. Lawrence; Council Members Doug Matheson, Jim Steele, and Phil Pickett; Town Manager Scott Hildebran; and Town Clerk Sharon Greene

·         Town of Boone:  Mayor Loretta Clawson; Mayor Pro Tem Lynne Mason; Council Members Andy Ball and Rennie Brantz; Town Manager Greg Young; and Deputy Town Clerk Kim Brown

·         Town of Seven Devils:  Mayor Bob Dodson

·         High Country Council of Governments:  Planning Director Phil Trew

·         Others:  Wright Tilley, Boone & Watauga County Tourism Development Authorities; Tracy Brown, Blowing Rock Tourism Development Authority; Calder Smoot and Candi Catoe, Beech Mountain Tourism Development Authority; Tom Gidley, Seven Devils Tourism Development Authority; John Troxler, Beech Mountain Chamber of Commerce; Lynn Minges, North Carolina Department of Commerce; Paul Stone, North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association; Lauren Ohnesorge, Watauga Democrat; and Anna Oakes, High Country Press


            Mr. Phil Trew, High Country Council of Governments, called the joint meeting to order at 5:10 P.M. by welcoming everyone and calling for introductions.  Mr. Trew introduced the following speakers prior to their presentations.


Tourism in North Carolina - Lynn Minges, Assistant Secretary for Tourism, Marketing and Global Branding, NC Department of Commerce


Ms. Minges’ presentation began with a video produced for the NC Department of Commerce.  The video highlighted:


·        The economic impact of tourism in NC

·        National media coverage of NC tourist attractions

·        Variety of tourist attractions in the State

·        Efforts of the NC Division of Tourism, Film, and Sports Development

·        Recent openings of new attractions and renovations/improvements to existing attractions


Ms. Minges then shared a presentation that provided information on tourism and tourism promotion in NC.  Highlights included:


·        NC Division of Tourism has three goals – attract more tourists, have them stay longer, and have them spend more money

·        Visitor spending in NC has risen steadily from 2000 to 2010 (with the exception of 2009)

·        2010 – visitor spending of $17 billion; 185,500 direct jobs

·        NC ranks #6 nationwide in visitor volume

·        Vast majority of visitors to NC come from nine mid-Atlantic states and Florida

·        NC Division of Tourism focuses marketing on women

·        NC Division of Tourism pays for ads in out-of-state publications; works with in-state media for free advertising

·        In 2010, media advertising had a 17:1 return on investment

·        NC Division of Tourism travels nationally and abroad to promote NC

·        www.visitnc.com is the State’s tourism promotion website

·        106 wineries exist in NC

·        Major motion picture production is anticipated to announce NC location soon


Local Occupancy Tax – Paul Stone, President and CEO, NC Restaurant and Lodging Association


Mr. Stone shared a presentation on local occupancy taxes.  Highlights included:


  • NC Restaurant and Lodging Association (NCRLA) is the state’s trade association for restaurants and hotels; represents 17,000 restaurants and 1,650 hotels
  • Restaurants and hotels employ 11% of the State’s workforce
  • NCRLA supports an occupancy tax provided it has a reasonable limit, and proceeds are used to promote tourism
  • NCRLA supports a national model for occupancy tax that includes the following provisions:
    • Tax cap
    • Tax revenue goes to tourism
    • Oversight of tax by persons in the tourism industry
    • Transparent and accessible information on the tax collection and expenditures
    • Enforcement and penalties
    • Clarification of taxable lodging
    • Allowance for collectors to retain administrative fees
  • NC General Assembly began authorizing local governments to levy occupancy tax in 1983
  • NC General Assembly passed uniform occupancy tax law in 1997
  • NCRLA identifies the following challenges in collection and use of occupancy tax::
    • Individual rental units
    • Local government definition of tourism
    • Out-of-town hotel owners representation on TDA boards
    • Lack of interest of some hotels


Following Mr. Stone’s presentation, the following issues were raised by attendees:


  • Hard for local governments to identify property owners who rent their properties independently (not through an agent)
  • No statutory mechanism for local governments to enforce occupancy tax requirements
  • Need for State law to require vacation rental owners to have business license (as a means of tracking properties)


Economic Impact of Tourism in the High Country – Dr. Melissa Weddell, ASU Department of Health, Leisure, and Exercise Science


Dr. Weddell shared a presentation on economic impacts of tourism in the High Country.  The presentation illustrated results from various research projects conducted by ASU.  Highlights included:


  • Tourism impacts include increased property tax base from second homes
  • 86% of visitors to western NC came for leisure (as opposed to conventions, etc.)
  • Sightseeing, shopping, and State/National Park visitation are the primary activities for visitors to western NC
  • 2009-10 ski season generated $146 million in western NC
  • 800,000 tourists visit wineries annually in NC
  • Western NC is a premier market for professional craft industry – 130 galleries, $31.5 million economic impact
  • ASU involved in the following tourism impact studies:
    • Art Council
    • Rocky Knob Park
    • Festival Tourism
    • Blue Ridge Parkway
    • Visitor preferences


            Mr. Trew stated that the date and time for the next Intergovernmental Retreat would be announced when scheduled.


            The meeting was adjourned at 6:59 P.M.



Nathan A. Miller, Chairman



Anita J. Fogle, Clerk to the Board