07/03/05 — Duplin to consider raising hotel occupancy tax to 6%

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Duplin to consider raising hotel occupancy tax to 6%

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on July 3, 2005 2:00 AM

KENANSVILLE -- Duplin commissioners will hold a public hearing at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday on increasing the hotel occupancy tax by 3 percent.

The rate now is 3 percent of the hotel bill, and the county commissioners are thinking about raising it to 6 percent. Raleigh and Charlotte have 7.5 percent occupancy taxes at their hotels, because of special legislation, and the General Assembly passed a bill earlier this year allowing the counties to increase their rates to 6 percent.

Tourism Director Robb Wells said the occupancy tax helps offset the costs of public services like water, sewer and police protection, and the money will help him bring more visitors to Duplin as their "weekend get-away."

One tool he has used to promote Duplin as the weekend get-away is a television commercial recently produced by the Tourism Department. The video begins with a Duplin County introduction, followed by commercials bought by Duplin Winery, the Country Squire and the Duplin Country Club.

The television commercial began airing Memorial Day weekend on the Topsail Island cable station.

"If you're at the beach and it rains, you can come over here and take some tours," he said. He said his department had fun doing the video, and people have already started calling about seeing the ads.

He said he will continue with the promotions at the welcome centers on the I-40 highway and tout the availability of sleeping establishments along I-40.

He said he is pulling away from the magazines. If a magazine does a story about Duplin County, he said, he will buy an ad in that issue, maybe the one before or after it.

He buys advertising for the Cabin Lake Park north of Beulaville, because he can get it done at a cheaper rate.

He said he has also been helping the owners of the county's tourist attractions find ways to do "experience-based" things like offering corn shucking actives at the Tarkil Branch Farm Homestead Museum.

He will continue to promote the shows planned at the Kenan Auditorium and the historical tours for which the county is popular among tourists.

He said he said he would like to see Duplin become part of a "linear tour," beginning at the museums at Goldsboro and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and proceeding to the Special Ops Museum in Jacksonville. They tour would then come to Duplin and end back in Goldsboro.

"You get to see a rich military history," he said. "They've seen Bush Gardens and Disney World. The kids have all gone to college, and they respect contribution of the military to our freedoms."

He said Duplin has no military base, but many veterans live in Duplin, and Warsaw has the longest running Veterans Day parade and the L.P. Best House, Duplin County's Veterans Museum.

Kenansville is also well known for Liberty hall, the Kenan family plantation home, the Cowan Museum and the other historical homes. Kenansville alone has 18 historical homes and a total of 25 historical sites. The county has more than 30 historical homes. He said people come into his office asking for the maps of walking tours of the homes.

So far, there are no shows scheduled this summer for the outdoor amphitheater, but he is working on that.

He said it's going to be fun having the kind of draw that will come with the completion of the new events center, which is scheduled to host its first event, the Muscadine Harvest Festival, at the beginning of October.

"Also you're seeing the winery tours in North Carolina," he said. "The tour could start somewhere on I-40. There are several off I-40 along the route. Our number one draw is the Duplin Winery. We're known for two things: We're a heavy agriculture county, and we make sweet wine."