A strong summer tourism season and successful efforts to recover taxes will bring a post-holiday bonus to some Hilton Head Island arts, cultural and tourism groups.
Hilton Head Island Town Council on Tuesday approved nearly $2.7 million in town tax collections on short-term lodging to pay for festivals, firework displays and other events to attract tourists in 2014.
Many groups received funding increases, but some first-time requests and groups not funded in the past walked away with nothing. Among those getting no money were the Hilton Head Island Airport and the Hilton Head Island Institute.
Beaufort County, which owns the airport, requested $10,000 to help attract pilots from the Carolinas and Georgia for an "Air Day" at the airport.
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A town advisory committee acknowledged the airport's impact on tourism, but cautioned council against funding a "start-up" unlikely to draw overnight visitors.
Council also heeded the Accommodations Advisory Tax Committee's recommendation to deny the institute funding, despite disregarding a similar recommendation last year.
Council, which last year awarded the institute $25,000, said the lecture- and panel-series has potential, but is an unproven driver of tourism.
The series, held for the first time in October, was shortened from a week or more to three days because of lukewarm interest. Organizers had hoped for 1,000 attendees; only about 200 to 225 people participated.
The low turnout indicates the event needs better marketing and direction, council and committee members said.
"I really supported funding this last year and know it's so hard to start something," councilwoman Kim Likins said. "... But they have to show the proof in the pudding - a significant number of tourists served, and I don't think this happened out of the box with this one."
Among the largest awards approved:
- Nearly $1 million to the town for police, beach-safety services, code enforcement, and road, park and pathway maintenance.
- $365,000 to the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina to support its operations. Council postponed a decision on the center's request for an additional $86,000 to replace its heating and cooling system. Council will consider that request after it receives a consultant's report in February on how to address costly maintenance and repair needs.
- $330,000 to the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce to promote island tourism. That's in addition to the more than $1 million the chamber receives each year by law as the town's designated marketing arm.
- $200,000 to the Hilton Head Island Symphony Orchestra.
In all, council doled out about $2.7 million of an expected $3.28 million pot, leaving it with more than half a million dollars in one-time money to distribute for added tourism marketing and facility improvements.
The advisory committee is scheduled to reconvene at 9 a.m. Feb. 18 to consider how the remaining money should be used.
Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/IPBG_Tom.
- Hilton Head residents say town should play major role in supporting arts, culture: Oct. 28, 2013
- Island arts, culture, tourism groups could see large increases in grants: Nov. 14, 2013