Dothan Area CVB Director Bob Hendrix speaks to the Tourism committee
Bob Hendrix was very candid: Enterprise needs to “step up” and claim its share of second largest economic sector in Alabama, tourism. And he should know, Hendrix is the Executive Director of the Dothan Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and the outgoing President of the state CVB association.
Addressing the monthly meeting of the Tourism Commitee, Hendrix explained that tourism in Alabama is a $9.6 billion industry, second only to agriculture/agribusiness. “If you sepparated Agriculture from the timber industry and other agribusiness, tourism would be the number one economic sector in Alabama”, according to Hendrix.
And this is not your father’s tourism. When Baby Boomers think of tourism, they think of the whole family piling into the station wagon (or SUV) and taking off for a week or two at the beach, the mountains, or a theme park. For generation X, it’s about weekend getaways, usually to take the kids to some kind of competition. “They are on the road every weekend taking their kids to softball, baseball, soccer tournaments..some kind of competition”, said Hendrix. That’s why the Dothan Area CVB is “in bed” with the local parks and recreation departments.
According to Hendrix, tourism generates about $89 million annually in total economic impact for Dothan. And it’s not just the hotels and restaurants that reap the rewards. Conservatively, each tourism dollar “turns over” at least 3 times before it leaves the community. And also creates a lot of jobs, directly and indirectly.
Hendrix detailed some of the innovative programs that Dothan created that are being replicated in other areas. The Dothan CVB puts welcome packs in their city police cars. When a visitor gets stopped for a traffic offense, the officer offers a welcome pack to help ease the ill will and foster hospitality. Each Dothan police car has a tag on the front bumper encouraging visitors to ask the officer about local information.
Hendrix encouraged the group to join together and ask local government to fund a local CVB through an increase in the local lodging tax. Enterprise has the lowest lodging tax found for this article, 6%. Of that, only 2% goes the the city, the rest goes to the state. The lodging tax statewide averages 12.5%. Dothan is at 10%.
Hendrix encouraged the hospitality industry to “step up” and demand a lodging tax increase of 4% necessary to fund an effective CVB. The tax would be paid by visitors, not residents and would still allow hotels to be competitive with each other and other areas.