Tourism Council concerned about low numbers

Fri, 11/10/2017 - 8:00am

When the hotel tax numbers collected on Block Island for the month of July came in about 40 percent lower than what was collected in 2016, members of the Block Island Tourism Board hoped that the August numbers would offer some kind of corrective.

That turned out not to be the case.

Tourism Board Executive Director Jessica Willi informed the board that the hotel tax numbers for this past August, coming in at $83,671, were lower than what was projected, and much lower than what had been collected in August 2016, which was $113,078.

“I thought it was going to be higher,” said Willi. When the low July numbers were reported at the last meeting, Tourism Council members hoped that perhaps one or two of the bigger hotels might have been late in remitting their tax bills. The hotel tax is one metric the Tourism Council uses to track the success of the summer season, and it is also of concern because the hotel tax is used to fund the Tourism Council.

Willi said the low August number didn’t tell the whole story, given what was collected in 2016 was in itself an anomaly — it reflected a big spike. Prior years were more in line with what was collected this year, Willi said. In 2015, the hotel tax was $89,757; in 2014, it was $95,391.

Willi said that she was talking to state tax collectors to see if the posted numbers are accurate, and to ask how they are being tracked. As Willi has stated previously, the state has a new computer system, and that there may be a logical reason, or undiscovered mistake, behind why the numbers are coming in this low. 

“These numbers are definitely wrong,” said Willi. “As soon as I get some answers, you’ll be the first to know.”

The Tourism Council also uses their budget to support a variety of local activities and organizations.

Along that line, the Tourism Council approved a donation of $2,000 to The Double Ender Committee to help fund the parade and fireworks display. (Full disclosure, editor Lars Trodson is co-chair of The Double Ender Committee.)