Ever since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita convention and visitor planners have anxiously awaited the returns on their hotel motel tax. That's the tax that among other things pays their salary. The quarterly returns are in. And Nacogdoches is pleasantly surprised. Despite initial uncertainty, hotel/motel tax collections were up 28% from the previous year in Nacogdoches. Tax collections totaled over $150,000.
For months local hotel rooms were filled with hundreds of hurricane victims with no place else to go. All the while they weren't paying hotel motel taxes. Nacogdoches Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Pam Fitch said, "The governor waived the sales tax for those evacuees, rightfully so, but it made us a little nervous."
Now they are breathing a sigh of relief that enough taxable business came in to make up for the losses. Joni Williams, an employee at the Holiday Inn Express can relate well with the hotel concerns. She lost a hotel job in Biloxi because of hurricane damage. She's now back in the college town where she graduated marketing rooms. Williams said, "We have a lot of land and oil lease guys that stay with us. We have about 15-20 rooms every week that are occupied with them. They've been here a couple of years."
There is a surprising number of corporate business customers. It's enough to catch the attention of Hampton Inn and Suites. It's the newest hotel in Nacogdoches. Doors opened on Wednesday. Business has been good. They cater primarily to the corporate visitor. And with each check in a hotel motel tax is added to support the CVB and future customers. Manager Alyssa Jordan said, "I think it's money will paid. They send a lot of business to the hotels in town."
The Nacogdoches economy is booming this week with the arrival of close to 300 visitors, plus their dogs. They're attending this week's National Narcotics Detector Dog Association. The Fredonia Hotel is booked and others have rooms filled with about 300 visitors and their dogs. All week police and private security canines will receive special training and certification. Association founder John Chandler said, "The CVB has been great. They've bent over backwards taking care of our needs. We ask and they deliver. Every officer here is a community police officer. We have allowed private security to come into our association to certify their dogs, but every officer here is a working officer. Every dog here is a working dog out on the street. Our needs are being met."