The figures come from the Hotel Destination Report, which Visit Johnson City describes as the industry’s standard for hotel reporting. Johnson City’s occupancy rate was higher than the average among nine markets tracked, which showed a 0.2% decrease in the occupancy rate. The compared markets are within 300-350 miles of Johnson City.
Johnson City also saw an average 1.2% increase in its average daily rate — the cost of hotel rooms – and a 7% increase in revenue per available room from 2018 to 2019.
“I think those metrics indicate that we’re seeing more visitors come that are spending more money and that they’re coming in here to enjoy the assets that we have,” said Visit Johnson City Executive Director Brenda Whitson. “I think that our efforts through advertising and marketing and through our relationships that we’ve built with sporting organizations and with other organizations are paying off.”
The figures also demonstrate that the city’s tourism assets and amenities have also improved, Whitson said.
In a press release issued Tuesday, Visit Johnson City, also called the Johnson City Convention & Visitors Bureau, said it anticipates that 14 large sporting events, 13 conferences and meetings and two large motorcycle events that the organization helped bring to the area contributed to the growth in these figures. According to the organization, more than 6,000 people visited Johnson City for the the Bands of America competition and 3,000 people for the Harley Owners Group Rally.
The meat of hotel business in the region, Whitson said, comes from corporate travelers.
Johnson City brought its lodging tax on hotels to 7% in 2017. According to the city’s municipal code, Johnson City must use 2% of that 7% privilege tax solely for tourism. In 2016, the total lodging tax revenue collected by the city was $1,161,436. In 2017, that figure dropped slightly to $1,134,394 before jumping to $1,905,988 in 2018.
According to the visitors bureau, Washington County ranks 10th out of 95 counties in the state in visitor spending. The organization says the most recent U.S. Travel Association statistics show Washington County generated $272.6 million in visitor spending and $6.3 million in local tax revenue.
Johnson City Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Bob Cantler said the city’s most recent occupancy figures are encouraging and demonstrates the success officials have had in recruiting major events to the area.
Cantler believes efforts to make the region a center for outdoor recreation have had a small impact on the numbers, but he noted that officials have not yet aggressively targeted that industry.
“I still feel there’s a whole lot more potential for us to grow our hotel business when we are more aggressive in promoting our outdoor recreation,” he said.
He anticipates these figures will continue to increase going forward.