Currituck to spend $10.5M on tourism

Dan Scanlon.JPG.JPG

Currituck County Manager Dan Scanlon


By William F. West
Staff Writer

Friday, June 15, 2018

CURRITUCK — Currituck County Manager Dan Scanlon said the county Travel and Tourism Office continues to operate the Whalehead Club at Heritage Park at a lower cost than a nonprofit did a few years ago.

Scanlon made that observation last week while outlining the proposed 2018-19 Currituck Tourism Development Authority budget, which estimates the county will collect approximately $10.5 million in occupancy tax revenues in the next fiscal year. The revenues derive from a 6-percent tax the county charges on the rental of rooms, lodging and campsites.

Scanlon said before the county took charge of the Whalehead Club from the Whalehead Preservation Trust in 2015, Currituck was contributing approximately $800,000 a year in occupancy tax revenue to help the nonprofit manage the tourist attraction.

Next year’s TDA budget, however, calls for the county spending only $697,300 in occupancy tax revenue on the Whalehead site.

Scanlon outlined the county’s proposed tourism budget at last week’s Currituck Board of Commissioners meeting.

One-third of the net proceeds from the county’s occupancy tax — about $3.5 million — must be directed to promote travel and tourism. Scanlon said 67 percent of those revenues would go for direct tourism promotions. Another 21 percent would pay for the personnel costs of the Currituck Travel and Tourism Office and another 12 percent would go for operations.

Of the monies spent on direct promotions, the largest amount — 42 percent — would be spent on social media advertising costs. Another 28 percent would be spent on print advertising costs and 13 percent on television advertising. Scanlon said the remaining balance would pay for events, printed materials, research, special promotions and trade shows.

The remaining two-thirds of the occupancy tax revenue — approximately $7 million — must be spent on tourism-related expenditures. Those expenditures can be used, for example, to increase the use of convention facilities, lodging and meeting facilities in the county. They also can be spent on tourism-related capital expenditures and on beach nourishment.

A significant amount of the tourism-related expenditures — more than $870,000 — will go for Whalehead operations and upgrades to the site. The site, which includes the Whalehead mansion built in 1925, will receive $477,200 for personnel-related expenses and more than $288,700 for operating costs. Scanlon also proposes spending $104,900 to either purchase new assets or extend the life of assets at the site.

In addition to more than $697,000 in occupancy tax revenues, Scanlon anticipates funding the Whalehead facility with $75,000 from tour revenues, $62,000 from event revenues and another $18,000 from weddings held at the mansion. Retail sales revenue at the tourist site and private donations will round out the facility’s revenues.

Other large tourism-related expenditures in next year’s budget include more than $1.6 million for Currituck Fire-EMS and $1.26 million for the Currituck Sheriff’s Office.

The funds for Fire-EMS will pay the additional costs associated with basing additional EMS personnel on the Currituck Outer Banks during the summer when its population swells.

The funds for the Sheriff’s Office will pay for additional law enforcement on the Outer Banks during the summer season.

Scanlon’s proposed TDA budget also spends more than $1.17 million on the ongoing Connecting Corolla plan, a checklist of capital improvements in Corolla.

Connecting Corolla includes building a multi-use path along N.C. Highway 12. Scanlon wants to work with the N.C. Department of Transportation to close the path’s gap near the landing site for the proposed Mid-Currituck Bridge.

Another $679,000 would be spent on a lifeguard services contract, while $250,000 would go for engineering services. Commissioners want to gather data so the county can make future decisions about beach erosion on the Currituck Outer Banks. Scanlon said the area to be studied would extend from Pine Island north to about 5 miles beyond the North Beach Access Ramp.

The tourism budget also includes funding to develop 10 acres of unimproved land in the Corolla area to create a permanent air-up and air-down tire station for off-road motorists

The Currituck Alcoholic Beverage Control Board is also looking for a future home for a larger Corolla ABC store. The new building could potentially be on the 10-acre site, Scanlon said.

Commissioners are set to hold a public hearing on the proposed county budget that includes the tourism budget on Monday.