Proposed hotel tax would bring tourism dollars to Clinton

A voter referendum on January 29 gives Clintonians the chance to bring tourism dollars to the city at no cost to residents. If approved, the referendum permits a one percent hotel tax to be applied to rates at the ten area hotels in Clinton.

Revenues from the tax will be used for advertising to draw more visitors to Clinton, Clinton Director of Communications Mark Jones said. The city’s tourism will be promoted with static billboards, printed maps with things to do in Clinton, and custom concierge kiosks in participating hotels.

“The need to promote Clinton, from St. Louis to New Orleans, Atlanta to Dallas, is a very important part of our efforts to inform potential visitors and tourists that our community is the place to stop when traveling I-20,” Clinton Mayor Fisher said.

“Drawing them to Clinton to eat, stay and buy enhances our economy, and I want to aggressively move to capture those dollars.”

In addition to purchasing print, digital and billboard advertisements, funds will also be used to install digital plan-your-day kiosks in participating hotels that offer four things to do a day in Clinton. All participating hotels will have a supply of paper maps that feature restaurants, places to visit within a twenty-minute drive of Clinton, and places to shop, Jones said. The digital kiosk is an iPad, which will be at concierge desks in hotels, at City Hall and at the Olde Towne Depot, featuring navigation links, Jones said.

Billboards promoting the city’s hospitality options will be placed along Interstates 20 and 55. Currently, three free billboards promote the city and are located between Monroe and Bolton.

“Additional boards will enhance the effectiveness of the three free boards currently placed along I-20,” Fisher said.

“Using Google ads and targeted social media advertising, there will be promotion of historical walking tour microsites and Clinton lodging through pay-per-click ads,” Fisher said.

Advertising will be purchased according to seasonal tourism and based upon historical tourism data, search term relevance and the geographic location of historic sites.

The referendum requires a sixty percent majority of those voting January 29, Fisher said, adding, “I hope you see the value of promoting our city to a wider area, drawing more visitors to enjoy our Historic On-Line Trail (including historic markers), Library Trail, the activities of Olde Towne, and our city parks.”

Clinton currently adds a two percent tourism tax to promote the city.

“Most people don’t know this because they are not renting [hotel] rooms,” Fisher said. The current two percent tax generates $200,000 in revenue to the City per year. If approved on January 29, the additional one percent tax on hotel bills will add $100,000 to promote tourism in Clinton. This tax increase is only applied to the cost of travelers staying in the city’s ten hotels; it will not increase citizens’ taxes.

Additionally, the one percent tax is only to be used for advertising to promote tourism in Clinton, and will never be used for anything else, City officials say.

“The dollars will help us win bidding and electronic [internet search engine] placement in front of people. We’re trying to maximize our dollars,” Jones said. “We are already doing some Google ad words advertising and placement of digital ads on narrowly defined I-20 corridors.”

The plan is to make a bulk purchase of static billboards to place from Monroe, Louisiana, to Vicksburg to maximize where the city already has billboards located. Other routes for the billboards include Southaven to Grenada and Meridian towards Forest. These billboards will target travelers who are looking for a hotel.

“Clinton is a place to stay for two or three days, and is perfectly situated to get to the Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, or to take a historic tour. Clinton is a place to spend a day,” Jones said, adding that tourists can stay in Clinton and visit Vicksburg and stop in Clinton before going to Natchez. “We have the historic element of the antebellum through reconstruction.”

The advertising will benefit Clinton’s hotels, and will also bring travelers and tourists to Clinton restaurants.

“It will only be on hotels and not restaurants, and we have a purpose for these funds; it will go to promote the city and bring in more economic development through that promotion,” Fisher said.

At the December 4, 2018, regular meeting of the Mayor and Board of Alderman, the board unanimously (7-0) approved bringing the referendum to the residents of Clinton for a vote on January 29.

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