Aug 8, 2017
BATAVIA — Revenues from visitors checking into Genesee County’s hotels are at their highest levels in four years.
A report from the Genesee County Treasurer’s Office requested by The Daily News shows that more than $4.4 million in basic hotel room charges were spent in the first half of 2017, outpacing every year but one since 2000 and generating $132,020.41 in hotel bed tax revenues for the county.
Genesee County Chamber of Commerce Director Tom Turnbull said that the current pace was buoyed by the heavy hotel use during a March wind storm for those put out of their homes and the influx of electrical company workers; and the continued growth of hotel spaces around Thruway Exit 48.
“We are ahead of last year and expect to be even more ahead after the third quarter,” which covers June, July and August, Turnbull said. The summer months make up about half of the county’s hotel spending.
Second-quarter bed tax collections were the highest ever recorded in Genesee — $86,288.22, while the $45,732.19 brought in during the first quarter trailed only 2013 — when construction of the Mueller Quaker Dairy plant added long hotel stays for building crews during what are normally slow months. That year’s overall hotel stays generated a record $439,967.68 in bed taxes.
Bed tax revenues are generated on top of regular sales taxes, County Treasurer Scott German said, with a $100 pre-tax room bringing in $11 of state and local taxes. The $3 generated by the hotel tax on that transaction — late night room service or an on-demand movie aren’t included in the tax — go into a fund set aside only for tourism promotion services.
The Chamber’s request to use up to $420,000 of bed tax revenues to egg on more visits was approved by county legislators in last year’s budgeting. The legislature is set to vote Wednesday to extend the bed tax itself.
County Manager Jay Gsell said that the extension, which runs through November 2020, has become a regular part of business for hoteliers; many of whom only arrived in the years following the tax’s imposition.
Receipts come from the crush of hotels along the Thruway, Darien Lake’s hotel, cabins and camping trailers; as well as smaller operations.
“It seems that the bed tax did not hinder occupancy nor ability of hoteliers to come here,” Gsell said. “After the first two years, when the proceeds started coming in, there’s never been a problem with how much was generated.”
Bed taxes only reached $253,400 in 2000 and were as low as $310,000 in 2009. More hotels, including another still pending for the Gateway I Corporate Park, have built up without slowing occupancy rates.
“The growth has been unbelievable over the last 15 years,” Turnbull said.
Any additional revenues beyond $420,000 will go back into the reserve account that helped build the new Chamber and Visitors Center on Park Road, within a short drive of over 900 hotel rooms. If it falls short, Turnbull said the difference is made up with reduced end-of-year marketing.
The current allotment goes toward efforts like stay-and-play offers matching hotels and golf courses; outreach at tourism shows and the 24-hour visitors center lobby filled with packets about local attractions.
“That promotion brings more people into the county,” Turnbull said. “(They are staying at the hotel) but who knows what else they will need. They’ll eat here, they may need a new tire, or a shirt. It all feeds into (the local economy).”