For most of 2018, receipts from the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau’s 3 percent tax on hotel room rentals was down from 2017.
But things turned around in September.
And through November, the room tax brought it $25,194 more than it did in the same months a year earlier.
In fact, October was the best October the CVB has ever had, Mark Calitri, the organization’s president, said last week.
The CVB took in $72,150 that month — up from $59,081 a year earlier.
That’s a 22 percent increase, Calitri said.
Part of the increase was based on the opening weekend of the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum, a major softball tournament and the Monsters on the Ohio catfish tournament.
September had been up 10 percent — to $65,465 from $59,052 a year earlier.
And November was up 12 percent — to $53,559 from $47,847.
“The city has a 1 percent tax and the county has a 2 percent tax,” Calitri said. “The increase is helping them too.”
In October, he told his board that the number of hotel room nights booked in Owensboro for conventions and special events has dropped in each of the past two years.
Information that Calitri presented to his board showed that 7,406 room nights were booked in 2015-16.
That dropped to 6,999 in 2016-17.
And it dropped again to 4,380 in the year that ended on June 30.
The fiscal year that began July 1 is expected to draw 7,310 room nights — getting back almost to where things were three years before.
But Calitri has set a goal of at least 11,000 room nights from conventions and special events each year.
Things are starting to move forward.
Chris Gendek, destination services, said an upcoming General Association of General Baptists convention will take 1,000 room nights and the Kentucky Extension Homemakers Association convention will take 500.
“These are million dollar deals,” Calitri said. “Our revenue has been trending below previous years. But now we’re up 1 percent for the year. Owensboro doesn’t have a major highway, but we’re beating our competition in cities with interstates.”
Matthew McCloud, general manager of the Hampton Inn & Suites Downtown/Owensboro Waterfront, who is also a CVB board member, said, “2018 was tough for this market. But it did rebound in the fall. I’m optimistic.”
One new hotel opened in 2018 and another is expected to open soon.
“Maybe with the additional hotel rooms we’ll be able to get some conventions and tournaments we haven’t been able to in the past,” McCloud said.
The CVB recently teamed with O.Z. Tyler Distillery and the Hall of Fame to place advertising wrappers on posts inside the secure area of Evansville Regional Airport promoting Owensboro’s attractions.
Dave Kirk, destination management director for the CVB, said Louisville’s Frazier History Museum, which is considered the start of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, will have an Owensboro night on April 18.
O.Z. Tyler will make specialty cocktails. The Hall of Fame will provide a bluegrass band. And Ole South Bar-B-Q will provide the food.
“The museum will market this for us,” Kirk said. “It’s great exposure for Owensboro.”
“The future continues to look bright for tourism is Daviess County,” Calitri said.