ChristmasVille: Stop Scrooging Others out of Hospitality Tax Funds

Opinion -In its 12th year, and attracting over 75,000 visitors, Rock Hill’s ChristmasVille is still receiving hospitality tax money while other events get overshadowed for funding.. when applying for funding.

ChristmasVille, which created about $2.6 million in total economic impact last year, plans to use about $11,000 of county funds for marketing – beating out other applicants such as Fort Mill Community Playhouse Productions – a non-profit theater that depends on support from community ticket sales, donations, and grants.

What is the hospitality tax in York County? In 2007, the county began collecting the hospitality tax, charging an extra 2 percent sales tax on prepared food and drink in unincorporated areas.

Interest and funding should be considered more seriously for parks, the Catawba River, and local arts. Things we can enjoy all year round, or at least during South Carolina’s long seasons of warm weather. An article from the Herald quoted Auvis Cole, interim executive director for the Rock Hill/York County Convention and Visitors Bureau saying that the Catawba River is “a resource that not everybody has…It’s good to see it being utilized and developed” talking about the recent influx of recreation on the river.

What better definition do we need for tourism-generating projects than the Catawba, a wonderful natural resource that so many can enjoy all year long, not just four days in the beginning of December? The newly rediscovered area of the Catawba River spans an extensive area from Fort Mill’s Lake Wylie Dam, touching base in River Walk, and goes all the way to Rock Hill’s River Park. And for some, farther to the hidden gem of Lansford State Park which has kayak takeouts in a beautifully scenic area that attracts thousands for its endangered water lilies each spring.

While council members are voicing concerns about the event “outgrowing” its need for hospitality tax funding, they still voted to allocate funding “just one more year” while, it seems, arbitrarily denying other huge events such a York’s SummerFest and the Come-See-Me Festival. The Strawberry Festival, however, did not reapply this year. Perhaps ChristmasVille and others of such magnitude should take note and follow suit to allow more and up-and-coming venues to thrive on the funding.

The hospitality tax grants awarded to such events as ChristmasVille have fulfilled its intended purpose. Isn’t it time to cut them loose since this is something organizers have had over a decade to plan for? With a long list of sponsors including Wells Fargo, Piedmont Medical Center, Coca-Cola, and Hampton Inn it is now a self-sustaining, stand-alone event that sets the precedent for tourism in York County, showing success that offers inspiration to other deserving tourism-generating projects.