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Tourism numbers still rising

Thanks to visitors who eat and shop while in Oxford, households in Lafayette County saw a tax relief of $695 because of funds raised from the 2 percent food and beverage and hotel/ motel tax.

Kinney Ferris, assistant director of Visit Oxford, presented some “bragging” numbers to the Oxford Tourism Council Wednesday, which showed tourism, and the funds tourists generate, continue to grow.

“That means if we didn’t have visitors contributing for the things we have, it would have cost homeowners an additional $695 to pay for the things we have here,” Ferris said.

Things funded by the 2 percent tax include the Conference Center, FNC Park, Square landscaping, the new pavilion and more. If not funded by the tax, they could have been paid using the city’s general fund.

Oxford visitors spent nearly $134.8 million in Oxford and Lafayette County during the 2015 fiscal year, which runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30. The numbers come from the Travel and Tourism Economic Contribution Report, Mississippi Department Authority Division of Tourism and the U.S. Census Bureau.

In 2014, visitors spent $123.5 million in Oxford.

There are 1,800 jobs in Oxford currently in the travel and tourism industry, up 160 jobs from Fiscal Year 2014. “We’re very proud of our numbers,” Ferris said.

Capital investments in Oxford were almost $6 million more in 2015, reaching $16.7 million. Investment figures are based on new hotel construction, renovation of current hotels, restaurants and retail stores.

The hotel/motel tax brought in $314,138 in 2015 and the 2 percent food and beverage tax brought in $2,589,358, up 34 and 11 percent from 2015 respectfully.

Ferris said 2016 could be another record-breaking year.

After just four months into the fiscal year, hotel/motel collection has reached 42 percent of the total tax collected in 2015 and the food and beverage tax has reached 35 percent to the total tax collected in 2015. Visit Oxford gets the revenue numbers from the state a couple months behind so Ferris only had October through February’s information.

Since the start of the fiscal year in October, the hotel/ motel tax collected is $131,144 and the food and beverage tax has brought in $916,671.

Hotel occupancy for February increased 11.6 percent from February 2015, totaling 68.6 percent.

“That’s well over the national average,” Ferris said.

Part of the increase was due to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Mississippi Emergency Management Agency employees who stayed in Oxford hotels for several weeks after the tornado in Holly Springs in December.