Jacksonville hotels facing challenges filling rooms

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT)–Without question, the military presence in the county is a big driving force behind tourism numbers.

In the county, 34% of tourism is military related. Some businesses say without an increase to Marines stationed at Camp Lejeune, they could face consequences.

The challenge is that the number of hotel rooms available outnumbers the demand. According to the Jacksonville  Tourism Development Authority’s 2016 Lodging Report, from 2011-2016 the city increased room counts by 27% while in the same period occupancy dropped by 15%.

“When the hotels are not full what happens is that everyone starts a rate war,” Julie Keoho, sales director for Hilton Garden Inn, said. “One hotel will lower the rate then the next one lowers to be competitive and what’s happening is our rates are considerably less than the national average right now.”

The local hotels provide a benefit to Onslow County residents besides just a place to spend the night. Customers pay taxes on the rooms, which go back into local revenue.

“When we are not full in town or lower our rates, it’s considerably less tax money coming in and we’ve taken a big hit on it,” Keoho said.

According to Onslow County Tourism, in the fiscal year 2015, residents saved $104 in taxes because of tourism revenue.

The city, county and area hotels are partnering together to bring in military reunions and create events to draw in the tourists.

The county is also working to market local beaches as affordable destinations as well as considering marketing the area as a retirement community.

“it is a very affordable place to live and we are right down the road from the beach so when people are looking to retire those are benefits they see from coming here especially those who are retiring from the military and looking to retire in a military friendly place,” Kristen Loflin, county tourism manager, said.

Onslow County’s tourism industry supported 1,750 jobs and generated $216.18 million dollars in spending during 2015.

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