Williamsburg City Council has established a Tourism Development Fund (TDF). The program is modeled after other tourist destinations across the United States including Asheville and Virginia Beach. The program is designed to operate as a grant fund with a committee who will review applications for funding and make recommendations for Council approval. Projects are intended to be tourism-based. This means that a new convention center, a new festival, the Capital Trail extension, park greenways, an expanded theater program, or even downtown lighting enhancements could be considered for a grant award. The fund is not intended for projects such as a new tire store, a water line replacement, or a new office building. The policy states the purpose of the fund as:
“The purpose of the Tourism Development Fund (TDF) is to increase patronage to restaurants, attractions, hotels, and events in the City of Williamsburg through financial assistance and reinvestment in tourism products, place-making projects, special events, public-private partnerships, and destination marketing.”
HOW IT WORKS
The program will provide a mechanism for both public and private investment in tourism infrastructure throughout the City of Williamsburg. This investment can be in new projects or in expansion of existing assets. This investment must be designed to increase visitation at area hotels, attractions and restaurants.
City Council approved the following:
Meals Tax = 1.5% increase for a total 6.5% on meals
Lodging Tax = 2% increase for a total 7% on transient rooms
(New) Admissions Tax = 3.5% increase on admissions (concerts, tours, movies, shows, museums)
These new revenues are dedicated to eligible tourism development fund expenses and may not be transferred to other city funds. Any unspent funds in the “lock box” roll over and may be used for eligible expenses the next year.
Applications for eligible projects may be submitted to the city starting in the fall of 2018 for funding consideration in 2019. Projects will have to demonstrate they meet program requirements.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
Ordinances have an effective date of July 1, 2018. The City's Finance Department will work with local businesses and event organizers in developing the admissions tax collection process in the spring of 2018. Meal and room taxes will continue to use the existing collection process. The collection of TDF program revenues will begin in July 2018. As such, the City will begin accepting applications for eligible projects in the fall of 2018. City Council will select projects in May when they approve the new fiscal year budget and approved projects will begin receiving program funds after July 2019 (in FY 2020).
A guidance document for the application process and program requirements will be provided in spring 2018 to assist in the preparation of materials for eligible Tourism Development Fund projects.