by Trish Rudder & Kate Shunney
Travel Berkeley Springs (TBS) president Stephanie Rebant told the Bath Town Council that tourism is on the rise in Morgan County with a 20-30% lodging increase over last year.
She told the council on October 18 that the hotel/motel tax revenue collected by the town and county was $809,416 – $680,542 from the county and $128,874 from the town during the fiscal year between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022.
The hotel/motel tax is a six percent tax on lodging bills, from hotels, motels, B&Bs and vacation rental homes, which is handed over to the county and towns.
Rebant said the tourist industry had a “booming year,” especially after the January 2022 state law went into effect tightening the rules on collecting and reporting the hotel/motel tax from all listed lodging.
Previously, people renting out their homes on vacation rental sites weren’t always collecting or turning over the hotel/motel tax like established lodging businesses have been.
She said TBS advertising is “bringing more guests to the county and our businesses are doing an amazing job accommodating those guests, resulting in repeat business.”
Rebant gave credit to the opening of the new lodge at Cacapon State Park, which has higher room rates than the old lodge.
“The tax revenue total of $809,416 translates into $13.8 million in lodging revenue alone,” she said.
TBS reported that visitor spending in WV as a whole amounted to $140 million.
Bath Mayor Scott Merki said the town will need help from TBS to promote the town when the bypass opens. He said advertising signs need to be placed on the north and south entrances on U.S. 522 to keep people coming into the town.
“We need to keep all businesses rocking and rolling,” Merki said.
In the same annual report to the Morgan County Commission, TBS President Rebant said the travel group would ask the state to designate the bypass as “America’ s First Spa Highway” in order to tie into the Berkeley Springs tourism brand as a healing and spa destination.
Rebant said hotel/motel funds would be put into new banners and flags in the downtown area, and into new rack cards that provide an “itinerary” for different kinds of travelers – adventurers, young families, retirees, couples, etc.
Rebant said Morgan County gets roughly 400,000 day-trippers per year, and TBS has promoted Berkeley Springs as a destination within quick reach of major urban centers.
She said it’s hard to overestimate how much tourism boosts the local economy, from restaurants and spas to local contracting, insurance and banks.
“Tourism is one of the largest, fastestgrowing sectors of the Morgan County economy,” said Rebant.