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9:47 PM Sat, Dec. 15th

$25,000 in bed tax money slated for Prescott Chamber Visitors Center

A portion of the revenue that the City of Prescott raises by taxing customers at local hotels and motels will now go to help cover the cost of informing the community’s visitors.

The Prescott City Council unanimously agreed last week to put $25,000 a year for the next three years toward the Prescott Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center.

Ann Steward of the city’s tourism office reported that the Chamber recently made a sponsorship proposal to the city, seeking help with the costs of operating the visitors center.

The center, which is designated as an official visitors center by the state, currently handles about 30,000 visitors a year, and costs about $50,000 to operate, Steward said.

Through the sale of maps and other miscellaneous items, the center annually raises about $22,000 in revenue.

While the center is operated seven days a week by about 35 volunteers, the city money would help to keep a steady flow of funding for the center, as well as toward minor repairs at the center, Steward said. “The Chamber is requesting help and support to enhance the tourism experience,” she added.

Officials say the requested funds are available through the city’s transient occupancy bed tax, which is paid by customers to hotel, motels, and other short-term stays.

In response to a question from Councilman Jim Lamerson about the number of overall volunteer hours that go toward serving Prescott’s tourists, Chamber President and CEO Sheri Heiney said volunteers annually contribute more than 10,000 hours.

Lamerson responded that even factoring a minimum-wage value of the hours, the volunteers’ contribution “is very difficult not to appreciate.”

Mayor Pro Tem Billie Orr, who serves as the council’s liaison to the Tourism Advisory Board, agreed, noting that she and others suggested early on that the Chamber increase its original request.

“When the $20,000 came forward to the TAC (Tourism Advisory Committee) ... several of us encouraged them to a little bit more,” Orr said, “Because we (the city) know that we could never do what you do for $25,000 a year.”

Noting that this year’s visitation numbers are higher than in the previous year, Heiney said Chamber officials are optimistic that the trend will continue. “We hope to see those numbers even double in the next few years,” she said.

Included in this year’s numbers is a noticeable increase in international visitors, Heiney said, which she attributed to the Chamber’s increased partnering with the Arizona Office of Tourism.

The additional money from the city is expected to go toward improvements such as carpet upgrades, additional staffing, and customer-service training.

Follow Cindy Barks on Twitter @Cindy_Barks. Reach her at 928-445-3333, ext. 2034, or cbarks@prescottaz.com.