The N.C. Travel & Tourism Coalition presented state Rep. Ted Davis with its inaugural Tourism Champion Award for his contribution to the tourism industry on Friday, Dec. 18.
The award from the coalition of tourism boards was partly to recognize Davis’ work on the Occupancy Tax Subcommittee of the House Finance Committee in the state’s General Assembly.
“Rep. Davis gets it, and we want him to know how much we appreciate his leadership,” said coalition chairman Rolf Blizzard. “Ted is one of our industry’s greatest champions, and we’re pleased to present him this well-earned award.”
“I am proud that my peers throughout the state recognize the work that he has done,” said Kim Hufham, president and CEO of the New Hanover County Tourism Development Authority. “We owe this man such a debt of gratitude.”
In presenting the award to Davis, Hufhan said one of his biggest contributions to the tourism industry was ensuring any legislation that addressed occupancy taxes adhered to the coalition’s guidelines.
The guidelines state that room occupancy tax should not exceed 6 percent, that at least two-thirds of occupancy tax proceeds go towards promoting tourism and that the revenue be administered by a tourism board. The guidelines also make provisions for beach nourishment, allowing for up to 50 percent of tax proceeds to go towards beach sand replacement projects in some cases.
In accepting the award, Davis said spending time in Wilmington while growing up gave him an appreciation of all of the amenities the area has to offer.
“It gave a true understanding of our quality of life and how important all of those are,” Davis said of the many opportunities for recreation in the region. “It’s not just for those who live here, but for those who come visit us and support our tourism industry. I’ve always done everything I could to try to help and support the tourism industry.”
Davis said during prior sessions he has had to fend off efforts by other legislators to make changes to the occupancy tax.
“The occupancy tax is so important. The money goes to tourism, but there are people that would rather it go to other things and they are trying to fiddle with the occupancy tax,” Davis said.
He said he has communicated with House Finance Committee Senior Chairman William Brawley about the importance of keeping the occupancy tax within the guidelines.
“There are rules and if you have rules, you have to follow them. If you start making exceptions here, you’ll have to make exceptions there,” Davis said of his discussions on the room occupancy tax in Raleigh.
Davis also highlighted the film industry as another important element of the local Wilmington economy. He said the $30 million film grant program that the General Assembly passed this year would have an impact on the local economy.
“We got a big boost this year. We’re starting to get some companies to come back in to Wilmington,” said Davis, emphasizing his passion for the film industry. “It’s going to be a huge boost, economically. I hope we can build on that and that the people in Raleigh will understand the significance of the film industry.”
Additionally, Davis praised the work of the General Assembly House Speaker Tim Moore.
“We have a speaker of the house who understands the film and the tourism industry,” Davis said. “That’s a good thing to have.”