SALISBURY — While admitting minor issues with collecting room taxes from some hotels and worries over rising gas prices, the Wicomico Department of Recreation, Parks and Tourism (DRPT) delivered an overall positive report to the County Council Tuesday.
According to the report, tourism made a $9.2 million impact on the county this year, with estimates for next year already in the approximately $12 million range.
“The numbers speak for themselves,” stated DRPT’s Mike Delano.
Delano and the other DRPT representatives attributed Wicomico’s growing success in the tourism industry to an overall expansion of events and opportunities being offered to visitors. Some of the biggest attractions to the county mentioned were the “Pork in the Park” barbeque coming to Salisbury in April and the fact that Bike Week was moving most of its operations to Winter Place Park this year.
Another important area was youth sports, the fastest growing field in the Wicomico tourism industry.
However, with all of the good news came a few negatives. DRPT representatives addressed a rumor that the department was having issues collecting their portion of the county’s room tax from some hotels.
While praising them for being “tremendous partners of the tourism department,” DRPT representative Wayne Strausburg admitted having difficulty securing room taxes from some hotels.
“None of our funding comes from county general funds,” said Strausburg.
Strausberg went on to say that every time someone rents a hotel room in Wicomico County, there’s a 6 percent room tax. Of that 6 percent, 1 percent goes to the Wicomico Zoo, 1 percent to the civic center restoration fund and the remaining 4 percent to the DRPT. If, though, a hotel is not timely distributing that room tax, the DRPT doesn’t have many options when it comes to persuading the hotel to follow the law.
“We didn’t feel it was appropriate for the tourism department to act as a collection agency,” said Strausburg.
“It is a big issue when the tourism office doesn’t get its money,” stated Councilwoman Stevie Prettyman.
Luckily, there are a few, albeit lengthy, processes which the DRPT can go through to ensure it’s getting room taxes from a given hotel. Additionally, Strausburg stressed that the majority of hotels in Wicomico were cooperative and professional and there were only a very few that ever made an issue of paying on time.
One final concern that was addressed was the ongoing increase of gas prices. With the per gallon cost estimated to rise near the $5 mark this summer, many in the tourism industry worry that people will be taking shorter vacations closer to home. However, the council was told that the effect would not likely be too negative for Wicomico County as there were still plenty of people to draw-in from the surrounding area.