By Lew K. Cohn
A new report from the Texas Comptroller’s Office shows Marble Falls hotels generated a record $11.7 million in total revenue for 2018 — an increase of about seven percent above the nearly $10.95 million lodgers generated in the community in 2017, a local economic development official said.
The spike in hotel room stay revenue is not unexpected, based on past performance, said Christian Fletcher, executive director of the Marble Falls Economic Development Corporation and a member of the City of Marble Falls Hotel Motel Tax Advisory Committee, which oversees spending of the city’s hotel occupancy tax.
“The revenue reported by Marble Falls hotels has been steadily increasing for about a decade, year-over-year and quarter-over-quarter,” Fletcher said. “In fact, only nine quarters out of the last 48 saw any kind of decrease at all — so it’s not a new phenomenon for our lodgers to be doing well.”
The two slowest quarters of the year for Marble Falls are generally the first (January through March) and fourth (October through December), but Fletcher said recent allocations from those two quarters have been higher than second (April through June) and third (July through September) quarter allocations from 2014 and prior.
“It’s hard to imagine more people staying in hotels during the fall and winter now than spring and summer four years ago, but that’s what’s happening,” Fletcher said. “Without new rooms, however, I expect the growth rate to slow a bit simply because some of our hotels are performing at such high levels that it will be difficult to maintain.”
For the first time ever, Marble Falls hotel occupancy tax revenues totaled more than $2.5 million for each quarter of the year in 2018, a noteworthy feat when one considers first quarter revenues for hotels did not hit $2 million for the first time until 2016.
In the first quarter of 2018, local hotel occupancy revenue totaled $2,600,637.34, up nearly $300,000 from the $2,308,975.33 generated in the first quarter of 2017, while in the fourth quarter, revenues were at about $2,688,651.43, up from $2,541,884.21 during the same time the previous year.
Second quarter revenue in 2018 was $3,388,864.20, a record high for Marble Falls and an increase of $200,000 above the previous high of $3,184,130.99 set during the same time in 2017. And third quarter revenue for 2018 was $3,058,312.80, up more than four percent from the $2,938,646.86 generated in 2017.
Also notable is that Marble Falls’ annual Lakefest was not held in 2018 for the first time in 26 years after corporate sponsor Lucas Oil and the Marble Falls/Lake LBJ Chamber of Commerce were unable to reach an agreement, yet the city still saw a new record set in August for hotel receipts. Incidentally, the Lucas Oil Drag Boat Racing Series was discontinued after the 2018 season.
“With regard to Lakefest, our hotel receipts from August 2018 set a new record for that month and were actually 4.6 percent higher than those in 2017— even without the boat races,” Fletcher said.
Fletcher said the city was successful in marketing its local hotels and motels to tourists the past eight years through a campaign with Austin-based advertising agency Door Number 3 for the past eight years.
However, the city is looking to launch “a new, bigger campaign” that will include traditional marketing, digital products, PR and more aimed at getting tourists to come to Marble Falls, Fletcher said. The Marble Falls City Council may consider contracting with another Austin-based agency, LookThinkMake, at their Tuesday, Feb. 5 meeting.