Farragut’s Tourism/Visitor Advisory Committee received both good and bad news during its in-person meeting in Farragut Community Center Tuesday, Sept. 15, the first since the “week before the world shut down,” Farragut Tourism coordinator Karen Tindal noted.
“There’s no mystery, COVID hit the hotels, hospitality, the restaurants, attraction industries extremely hard all over the world,” she said. “It’s really been an interesting time to be in tourism and work with businesses.”
In referring to the Town of Farragut Smith Travel Research subscription reports, she reported Farragut’s hotel occupancies in 2019 were 73.6 percent in 2019, compared to 41.2 percent in March 2020; 69.9 percent in April 2019, compared to 21.5 percent in April 2020; 71.6 percent in May 2019, compared to 35.5 percent in May 2020; 76.3 percent in June 2019, compared to 45.8 percent in June 2020; and 74.1 percent in July, compared to 55.1 percent in July.
Because of the COVID-19 effects, Tindal said Farragut Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted to delay enacting the Hotel/Motel Tax, which was supposed to start in June, until Sept. 1.
Trevor Hobbs, assistant to the Town administrator, said after the meeting that the revenue numbers won’t be available until October, when the Town receives the tax money.
Nearby, Tindal reported Visit Knoxville reported year-to-date hotel occupancy for June 30 at 41.6 percent, while Nashville reported occupancy of 20 percent and Louisville, Kentucky, reported 15 percent.
“Hopefully, we can get into a recovery mode and start really seeing things turn around, and we won’t be sitting here in six months, looking at the same kind of numbers,” she said.
On the other hand, Tindal noted, according to Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, East Tennessee is No. 1 in hotel demand and Knoxville is No. 2, behind Sevier County.
“They are saying East Tennessee region is really leading the big recovery right now, with Sevier County in East Tennessee and the Knoxville area really well in demand for (hotel) rooms,” she added. “That’s good news for our area.”
Tindal said the Town’s tourism continued to develop since March, as it’s Visit Farragut social media platform followers increased 28 percent, from 1,905 to 2443.
Tindal said her department is gearing up for the national 2020 2nd Annual Hobie Tournament of Champions, which will take place Nov. 12-15), in the waters of Fort Loudon Lake, Tellico Lake, the French Broad and Holston Rivers and will use Farragut’s Community Center for its headquarters. She expects the event should bring about 150 bass fishermen to the area.
“The judges will be here, all day, looking at fish,” Tindal said.
“But no fish will be in the building,” Parks and Recreation director Sue Stuhl assured.
“Do you have any way of tracking who from that tournament stays at our hotels?” Committee Chairman Michael Bellamy asked.
“We do,” Tindal replied, explaining Visit Knoxville, a partner with the Town, will be doing all the contracts and will be able to tell where participants and others are staying.
More good news came from the state when Tindal said she was just notified the Town is eligible for money from the CARE Act.
“The CARE Act money is being spread across all our 95 counties … based on their hotel rooms,” she said.
Tindal explained the Town has to first spend the money then may get a reimbursement for a certain amount of money.
“You have to have the money to spend, and it has to be spent on COVID-friendly marketing to visitors into your location,” Tindal said. “So, we are working on bolstering up our Light the Park event.”
Even though it will not have the in-person celebration as years past, with the arrival of Santa, “We are looking to really market that event,” she said.
In other business, the committee elected its officers for the coming year: Candace Viox, chairwoman; Ashley Lynch, vice chair; and Julie Blaylock, secretary.