Tourism might be at an all-time high in Orange County, but the visitor’s bureau still faced a $100,000 budget shortfall.
Tourism revenue peaked during the 2012-2013 fiscal year, according to the Orange County Tourism Progress Report, which was published by Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau last month.
The bureau suffered a budget shortfall after its revenue was $1,257,179 but their expenditures were $1,332,362.
Laurie Paolicelli, director of the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau, said the numbers aren’t what they seem.
She said the Bureau is not surprised or concerned with the shortfall.
“We had planned to spend a fund balance portion at the outset of the year,” she said in an email. “The fund balance is like a savings plan so it looked like we dipped in to a savings account but that was all on purpose. It’s government speak for spending reserve funds when that account starts to grow.”
Paolicelli said she is not worried about the budget shortfall because revenues have been increasing since 2010 as the economy recovered.
“The economy is strong again and people are traveling. We’ve seen an increase in business travel especially from medical segment,” she said.
Anthony Carey, the manager of the Siena Hotel, said hotels have felt the impact of increased tourism.
“Talking to other hoteliers, they seem to be up,” he said, “As we continue to become further and further from the recession of 2009, the business travel continues to be stronger and stronger.”
Carey said business travel has especially boosted his hotel’s weekend business.
Mark Sherburne, general manager of the Carolina Inn, said people come to Chapel Hill for pleasure as well.
“We have seen more individual travelers wanting to come to Chapel Hill for leisure as well as for business,” he said. “It definitely has seen an increase for people who are discovering Chapel Hill as well as coming back.”
Carey said another factor contributing to the rise in business is UNC’s strong athletics. He said the men’s basketball team’s recent 13 game winning streak, its longest ACC winning streak since the 1986-87 season, probably helped hotel bookings this year.
“The hotels in Chapel Hill do wonderful when the University is very successful,” he said. “When the Tar Heels are winning games, the rates are higher, the rooms are booking at a higher pace. When the Tar Heels are losing, you see some rooms aren’t booking as much and we need to be a little lower in prices for people to come in.”
Carey noted that academic competitions also help tourism in the county.
“For instance, the Moot Court competition that just took place in the School of Government is phenomenal,” he said. “We had several universities staying and really enjoying having the competition at UNC-Chapel Hill.”
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