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January 31, 2023

Tourism Numbers Increased

Cleveland tax revenue figures are very promising

By Jack Criss

The Bolivar Bullet

Last week, The City of Cleveland received new numbers from the Mississippi Development Authority regarding tourism-based revenue–and the numbers were impressive.

“We got the tourism tax for September this past week, and it came in at $113,899– a 20.68% increase over the same month last year,” said Sean Johnson, Director of Tourism for Visit Cleveland. “Overall, tourism revenues are up 9.62% for the year. In 2022, tourism has so far generated $1,269,315 in taxes which equates to $63,466,000 in tourism spending in the city limits of Cleveland. This doesn’t include Boyle or the restaurants just outside of the city limits so, the overall tourism impact would be a bit more,” said Johnson.

Prior to last year’s outlier year, the growth in Cleveland’s tourism tax revenue averaged 4.77%. “This year, we doubled that average,” said Johnson.  “I receive a monthly email report/spreadsheet from MDA with numbers from every city in the state that has a tourism tax,” said Johnson, “and our numbers are impressive.”

Last year also showed strong increases, reported Johnson. “I’ve been involved in tourism work since 2010 and its usually always the case that every year for any given town will show some increases,” he said. “But what we’ve seen here in Cleveland is substantial. Five years ago, Cleveland’s annual tax revenue was $873,000–and you look at this year and it’s $1,269,315–that’s almost a 400% increase. 

When the Covid lockdowns started in early 2020, the numbers dropped, of course,” continued Johnson. “But I attribute the growth from 2021 on to stimulus money that came to people who had more time on their hands–we saw a 15% growth that year–and tourism organizations like ours also received funds–$150,000–to assist in marketing. But, in actuality, both the low year of 2020 and the higher year of 2021 could be considered artificial due to the Covid circumstance in the former year. and the stimulus monies pumped in during the second year,” said Johnson.

Johnson said that, while at the State’s recent Tourism Conference, the last two years are not really being looked at closely for trending purposes and are considered more as anomalies. “We’re all looking at pre-pandemic numbers and rates to base and compare where we are now,” he said. 

Looking ahead for the next few months, Johnson said he has every reason to expect tourism tax revenues to continue to rise. “Especially with ‘50 Nights of Lights’ now taking place–and continuing to grow as a major attraction and Christmas traditions–as well as people continuing to resume a more normal shopping and traveling routine for the holidays,” he said. “Our local merchants have done incredible, over-the-top jobs on their window dressing, sales deals and festive atmosphere. It’s like a true  Hallmark Christmas experience!”

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