The good news is hotel bed tax receipts were up for the 12 months ending in June 2011. The bad news, it's extremely difficult to match the state figures with local bed tax receipts. That shouldn't be the case (more on that later), but now the numbers.
After many areas took a battering last year in lodging revenues, most counties in Southern Illinois saw an increase in FY 2011.
Overall, the Illinois Department of Revenue reported that the state saw a 3.3 percent overall increase in bed tax collections throughout the 17-county region from Mount Vernon south (at least in the 11 counties where they broke out figures; data wasn't available for the other six). Area lodging operators collected more than $3.1 million for the state's 6 percent bed tax from travelers in the region.
For the last couple of decades Mount Vernon and Marion have boasted the most hotel rooms along with interstate interchanges, but for the last two years Williamson County has surprassed Jefferson County in taxable hotel revenues.
Jefferson County lodging operators brought in more than $13.5 million during the 12 month period compared to Williamson County's $13.9 million. Both counties saw revenues just 7.3 to 7.4 percent.
Jackson County saw revenues go up 1.6 percent to $8.7 million. Massac County also saw a small increase of just 1.2 percent to $4.35 million, but river flooding is also partly to blame with two of Metropolis' major properties closed at times this spring due to the high water, (one of which was still closed for remodeling as of a few weeks ago).
Franklin County comes in fifth with $2.9 million in hotel revenues, down 10.6 percent during the year, and down 16.9 percent compared with two years earlier.
Randolph County with hotels in Chester and Sparta saw a 10.5 percent drop in revenues last year, down to $2.5 million, but they're still up 7.8 percent over the last two years.
Union County rounds out the top seven counties with its establishments reporting just under $1.6 million in revenue. They were down three-tenths of a percent compared with the year before. Unlike its larger competitors, Union County sees most of its revenues come from smaller specialty properties of cabin rentals and B&Bs rather than hotels and motels.
In reality, Union County's lodging operators actually played a bigger role, as the state counts establishments by their zip codes rather than their actual location. Thus all of the places with Makanda zip codes including Giant City Lodge, are included in Jackson County's totals.
Likewise Williamson County loses three cabins with a Carbondale zip code to Jackson County, but picks up two at the Lake of Egypt with a Creal Springs zip code that are actually in Johnson County.
Elsehwere Saline County experienced a 13.1 percent increase with hotel revenue up to nearly $1.3 million. Perry County hotels followed with nearly $1.2 million, pretty much the same as the year before.
White County with most of its lodging on its north side at Grayville and Interstate 64 reported $1.1 million in hotel revenue.
Hardin County lodging operators reported $356,000 in revenue down 2.1 percent from the year before while Pope County saw a 35.9 percent increase in revenues reported though from a smaller base. Their operators reported $262,000 in room rentals.
No figures were made available for the industry in Alexander, Gallatin, Hamilton, Johnson and Pulaski counties (as well as White County for previous years). The state doesn't release county level information if there are fewer than four lodging establishments paying state taxes.
Another problem is that even when the zip code issue is taken into account, the state's still four or five establishments short in Williamson County alone. Either some folks aren't paying the state taxes, but should, or there's yet another issue with the Department of Revenue's procedures.
The difference between the state and county's figures in Williamson County is more than a vacation rental, or an outdated motel or two that's more residential than tourist any more. It's the equivalent of one or two of the largest hotels not paying.
I'm beginning to wonder if the state is counting the location of the hotel management company and where they write the monthly check rather than the actual location of the hotel. All the Department of Revenue is concerned about is, well, the revenue.
The problem is that the Williamson County Tourism Bureau may be getting shortchanged in state funding, just as Carbondale benefits and Southernmost Illinois Tourism loses when Giant City Lodge and all the other Makanda-addressed facilities on the Union side of the county line get counted in Jackson. Except in Williamson County's case the figures may be more significant.
Local certified convention and tourism bureaus are funded by local bed tax collections as well as a state Local Convention and Tourism Bureau (LCTB) grant. The General Assembly appropriates the overall amount for the LCTB grants and the Illinois Bureau of Tourism uses a formula to distribute the funds proportionally among the various bureaus. The formula is based on three components; the state's bed tax collections from the bureau's service area being the biggest component, with restaurant sales tax collections being the second biggest factor.
The problem? IBOT gets the figures for their formulas from the Illinois Department of Revenue.
That's a mystery I don't have time to unravel right now, but at least we can focus on the positive: More people are spending more money in Southern Illinois than they did the year before.