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T&T board chairman opposes hotel tax increase

The chairman of the Henderson County Travel and Tourism board and a board member who operates an inn expressed strong opposition Thursday to the 1-cent increase in the county's hotel tax, saying it could hurt tourism. Board members also expressed opposition to sending the money to the Flat Rock Playhouse.

Larry Young, the board chairman and also a county commissioner, said he is concerned that the increase from 5 to 6 cents will negatively affect visitation. He said the increase in hotel pricing could drive visitors away. He  also again expressed doubts that the Playhouse brings in enough outside visitors to justify getting a large financial subsidy from the tourism tax. A change made to the proposal in the state Senate Wednesday ordered that the proceeds from the increase — projected at $223,000 a year — to the Playhouse, which is the official State Theatre of North Carolina.
Others from board noted that when tourism tax was increased two years ago, people took notice. Concerns are high that if this tax increase passes, tourism will decrease, and without the foot traffic from visitors, all other businesses will suffer, including restaurants, bars and shops.
"This increase will be detrimental to tourism dollars overall," said Selena Einwechter, Innkeeper of the award-winning Bed & Breakfast on Tiffany Hill in Mills River. "Not only will my patrons be upset by the increase, but it will also negatively impact all businesses in the area, like restaurants and local stores."
If the House accepts the bill as adopted by the Senate the tax increase will be effective immediately, with about a month's notice, board members were told. The Henderson County Board of Commissioners asked local legislators to file the bill after a majority expressed support for the idea of using the bed tax to support the Playhouse. The bill was sponsored by state Sen. Tom Apodaca and Rep. Chuck McGrady, both Hendersonville Republicans.
The theater drew 96,000 patrons in 2011 and projects the sale of 100,000 seats this year, with 57 percent of them from out of town. An economic impact study conducted in updated in 2006 and this year put the impact at $7 million in 2006. Adjusted for inflation and accounting for the Music on the Rock and other shows in the Playhouse's downtown space plus classes and performances in the YouTheatre Education Center, the impact in 2012 should be about $10 million, the Playhouse says.