Council briefed on tourism group’s efforts to bring in more visitors
Hotel occupancy in Albemarle and Charlottesville continues to rebound with overnight stats in April of this year slightly above the previous year, but still below pre-pandemic levels.
“We’re recovering a bit,” said Courtney Cacatian, the executive director of the Charlottesville Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Our hotel occupancy is still limited by our workforce here.”
Cacatian provided that information to City Council at a work session Monday that served as an introduction to the agency, which was created in 1979 to promote tourism in the area. She said the entity never stopped advertising during the pandemic, so there is pent-up demand reflected in the average daily rates. This April that figure was over $170 a day compared to around $100 in April 2021. (view the presentation)
“The mission is really to enhance the economy, specifically in the tourism industry, and to generate tax revenue for the city and the county,” Cacatian said. “And we reinvest that funding back into the tourism economy to start that funnel again.”
Cacatian has been in the position since August 2019, several months before the pandemic hit.
The agency’s main source of funding is through the transient occupancy tax levied by Albemarle and Charlottesville, in addition to grants. The CACVB’s budget lags two year behind collection, which explains why the FY23 budget of $1.72 million is lower than the FY22 budget of $2.053 million
Much of the funding goes into marketing.
“And that marketing includes advertising, public relations, and sales efforts,” Cacatian said. “We’re the storytellers for Charlottesville and Albemarle and we get to tell people who don’t live here what we want them to know about us so that they come to visit.”
CACVB also served as a pass-through agent for $680,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funding that originated from the Virginia Tourism Council, as well as $750,000 in ARPA funding from Albemarle County.
One of the marketing initiatives targeted to a national audience is called Discover Black Cville which went live on March 27. That began in August 2020 with listening sessions with Black businesses and attractions.
“It was really important to me that we were making sure that our community had buy in before we launched nationally and you could tell on launch day how much community buy in and positivity had been created by this effort,” Cacatian said.
The initial launch weekend led to several articles:
- My Trip To Charlottesville, Virginia Taught Me The Importance Of Black Ownership In America, Marsha Badger
- Charlottesville, VA, To Highlight Black-Owned Businesses Through Community-Led Initiative, Brunno Braga
- Charlottesville Celebrates National Launch of Discover Black Cville, Mary Melnick
Vice Mayor Juandiego Wade was on hand for the event.
“It was a room full of writers from different newspapers and I love meeting new people so it didn’t take much for me to get there and talk to them,” Wade said. “It was great. It was just a perfect weekend as far as the weather, the activity. It was smelling great outside with the different food so I hope they enjoyed it.”
Councilor Sena Magill said she really liked what CACVB is doing with Discover Black Cville, but she said she was concerned about any funds being used to pay for short-term rentals that may not be properly registered with the city.
“If the city is paying a large chunk of money and then we are providing advertising space for companies who are breaking our zoning laws and impinging on our affordable housing stock…” Magill said.
“And then typically not paying the taxes either,” said Charlottesville Mayor Lloyd Snook.
“Yeah!” Magill said. “I have some issues with that.”
Cacatian said she would look into the matter.
The Board of Directors for the CACVB next meet on July 11. Check the public notices section of their website for more information.
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