Sampson needs to increase its room occupancy rate to bring in more tourism

We’re not always in favor of tax hikes, but sometimes we believe they are necessary to help grow our county. That’s the case with a continued request from the Sampson County Convention and Visitors Bureau, whose leader renewed a request to increase the county’s occupancy tax rate by 3 percent.

The move requires approval by the North Carolina General Assembly, the place where it stalled last year. We hope the request gains the needed traction for passage this go-round so that CVB members can increase tourism marketing, something we believe is desperately needed if we are to compete with neighboring counties for tourism dollars.

The rate hike has won approval of the Board of Commissioners who for the second time in just over a year have green-lighted the effort, even going as far as writing a letter to Sampson’s state representatives — Reps. Larry Bell and William Brisson and Sen. Brent Jackson — in 2016 showing their support. The request was introduced as legislation during the House’s recent short session, but the session adjourned before the bill could be approved.

It is our hope that state lawmakers will revisit the issue this session, giving it the approval needed. Doing less would be detrimental to Sampson and would stymie marketing plans.

What CVB leaders are requesting is an increase in the room occupancy rate, or ROT, from 3 percent to 6 percent, a hike that could bring in an average of $17,000 additional dollars. The hike would not impact local residents.

The increase would be charged to business and leisure travelers staying in local lodging establishments and falls in line with what is currently being charged in neighboring counties, such as Wayne, Johnston, Cumberland, Duplin and Pender.

Currently Sampson falls below those rates, and that is the main reason we support the hike so much.

The increase would afford the CVB necessary funding to enhance their promotional and marketing efforts, something we believe needs to be done. We need to toot our own horn, because no one can promote Sampson the way our own county can. Doing that, though, costs money and, in many cases, lots of it.

But a solid marketing plan is a benefit the CVB can ill afford to side-step, a fact we know they recognize.

It is to their credit, as well as to the credit of county commissioners, that they understand what is needed and are going after it at every turn.

We hope our state lawmakers understand the need, and the urgency as well, and do all they can to ensure the bill makes it through the General Assembly as quickly as possible.

An increase in the ROT is tantamount to the CVB’s future marketing strategies. With it, great things can begin to happen with regard to increased tourism for Sampson; without it we are afraid we will remain merely at the status quo.