By JOSH VARDAMAN
Courier staff writer
---- — OTTUMWA — Wapello County seems to be the new destination for a growing number of travelers when compared to previous years.
The U.S. Travel Association releases an annual travel expenditures report for the state of Iowa and its counties, and for 2012, Wapello County and the entire state saw an increase in the amount travelers are spending.
The report, titled the 2012 Economic Impact of Travel on Iowa Counties, stated that visitors to Wapello County spent $80.29 million during 2012. That is an increase of $5.01 million, or 6.7 percent, from the 2011 report.
As a whole, Iowa has also seen the marginal growth that Wapello County shows, though not to the same extent. There was $7.6 billion in travel spending in 2012 for Iowa, which was an increase of 5.6 percent from 2011.
In addition to those numbers, the hotel/motel tax Ottumwa collected jumped 20 percent for the fiscal year of 2013 (July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013) when compared to the previous year. Those numbers, which totaled $384,077 in the 2013 fiscal year, come from the 7 percent tax placed on travelers lodging in the municipal area.
According to Mark Eckman, director of the Ottumwa Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, he sees the rise in the travel expenditure as a result of the expansion and improvements to local lodging, as well as the recovering economy. He also pointed to the work being done by the hotels in the area.
“A lot of it is in recognition of what the hotels are doing,” Eckman said. “They are taking every opportunity they can get.”
As far as the 2013 report, don’t expect to see it until this time next year. The compiling and publishing of the information is a very timely process, making late October or early November the earliest the reports are usually released.
When they do come out, though, Eckman thinks there will be even more of an increase for Wapello County.
“Looking at the [hotel/motel] tax, I would say that’s as good an indicator as any that travel expenditure is growing,” he said. “I would expect the total for 2013 would be greater.”
The Convention and Visitors Bureau is doing everything they can with a limited staff and budget, according to Eckman. If the Travel Association’s report is any indicator, it appears that they are making the most of it and providing positive results for the community.
— To see reporter Josh Vardaman's Twitter feed, go to @CourierJosh