In the interest of full disclosure, I have never been a fan of the tax that Johnston County and some of its towns levy on hotel and motel stays. The tax pays for tourism promotion, which should bring more people to Johnston County and its hotels. But no one has been able to show me that the tax leads directly to increased revenue for hotel and motel owners. I distinctly remember the year that innkeepers paid the tax only to see their revenue fall from the year before.
Having said that, I think the Johnston County Visitors Bureau spends its tax dollars logically and sometimes creatively. Its billboards, for example, promote destinations in Johnston County, including Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site, the Ava Gardner Museum and Kenly’s Tobacco Farm Life Museum. And just recently, the Visitors Bureau published an especially useful guide to meeting places in Johnston County.
I am impressed also with the bureau’s website, which you can find at johnstoncountync.org. It profiles the county’s various tourist attractions, from agritourism to arts and entertainment, from dining to shopping, from museums to Johnston County’s wine trail. A separate calendar shows in detail the many events that take place in Johnston County throughout the year. The big ones are there, including this month’s 149th anniversary of the Battle of Bentonville. But so are the smaller ones, including story hour at Clayton’s Hocutt-Ellington Memorial Library. I turn often to the calendar when compiling the newspaper’s arts notes and community notes.
Finally, the website has well-made videos about Johnston County events and destinations and an interactive map that shows places to stay, eat, shop and meet.
Through its many pieces, the Visitors Bureau website has everything a traveler needs to know – especially why, when and where to stay in Johnston County. It’s a puzzle then that the room tax appears to have so little direct impact on hotel revenue.
And therein lies the challenge for Visitor Bureau leadership – to keep serving the traveling public well while ensuring that innkeepers get the biggest bang for the tax dollars they fork over to the county.