Return of annual festivals expected to help increase tourism in Plano

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Hotel occupancy tax collections are up in Plano after a slowdown in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the first year since 2019, two of Plano’s biggest events – the Hot Air Balloon Festival and the Plano International Festival – will take place.

“I can think of no better way to celebrate and recognize our recovery from the pandemic than to come together safely as a community for the Plano Hot Air Balloon Festival and the Plano International Festival,” said Kelle Marsalis, President. and CEO of the Plano Chamber of Commerce, via email. “Businesses of all sizes support our citizens and our workforce through these festivals and the chamber is delighted for the organisers…and businesses who are able to use this opportunity.”

A major indicator of tourism activity is the HOT collection, which is a 13% tax levied on hotel room costs. Once collected, 6% of that rate goes to the state, while the remaining 7% is kept by the city, said Visit Plano executive director Mark Thompson.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Thompson said the city saw its hotel occupancy tax collections drop by more than 40%. These collections fell from more than $11 million in fiscal year 2018-19 to less than $7 million in fiscal years 2019-20 and 2020-21. Collections for the 2021-22 fiscal year are expected to exceed $10 million, he said, and the 2022-23 fiscal year is expected to see more than $12 million raised.

Visit Plano, the city’s official destination management and marketing organization, is funded entirely by collecting resort tax from hotels, Thompson said. Resort tax revenue also helps fund the city’s convention center, cultural arts program, historic preservation program, and special events such as the hot air balloon festival.

“The hotel resort tax helps many parts of the city,” he said. “Arts gets about $1 million, and historic preservation gets about $800,000 of that. [hotel occupancy tax].”

Thompson said Visit Plano’s ultimate goal is for revenue generated from tourism to provide relief to taxpayers.

“Would Plano have as beautiful a symphony as we do if it wasn’t for visitors or such a beautiful downtown? We need those visitors to come see the hot air balloon festival,” Thompson said.

Since the balloon festival spans four days, Thompson said it will attract nighttime visitors such as pilots and enthusiasts who want to be there for the daily lighting and takeoff of the balloons.

Plano Hot Air Balloon Festival

After floods washed out the event in 2018 and the COVID-19 pandemic canceled it in 2020 and 2021, this year’s HEB/Central Market Plano Balloon Festival from September 22-25 at Oak Point Park will be the second time the event will take place. since 2017.

“This is a landmark event for the city and our region,” said festival general manager Jo Via. “The only event that’s really bigger than that…is the state fair, and so it was hard not to. [in those years]. But it was also the right decision to make at the time.

Via said this year’s festival will feature around 30 balloons, some of them in special shapes, as well as food and merchandise vendors selling items ranging from turkey legs and funnel cakes to jewelry and hats. cowboy.

In addition to overnight visitors, Thompson said hot air balloon and international festivals also draw day visitors within 50 miles of Plano.

“They can buy gas here, go to a grocery store while they’re here, and go to a restaurant or two, then turn around and go home,” he said. “They have an economic impact on the community, but they don’t count towards this occupancy tax because they don’t rent a hotel room.”

These festivals also offer organizations the opportunity to meet participants. Local nonprofits may provide a service or offer volunteers, Via said. Organizations wishing to showcase products or services can invest in the event by purchasing booth space.

“They’re here to showcase their agency and to capture some of the [event’s] revenue, which is a percentage of what we provide,” Via said.

Plano International Festival

It is estimated that volunteers from the non-profit organization Plano International Festival Corp. spend about 3,400 hours a year organizing the multicultural festival, which began in 2006. This year’s free event on Oct. 15 is set to begin with an outdoor naturalization ceremony led by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security , said festival president Graciela Katzer.

“It is a very emotional part of the festival because it will be 50-75 new contestants who will become new [American] citizens who represent many different countries,” Katzer said.

The festival will also offer attendees the opportunity to attend fashion shows, artistic performances, food tastings and other attractions from around the world. The event will include a wellness fair and Fitzone, which will offer free flu shots, stress exercises for kids, eye exams and more.

Additionally, the Children’s Global Village will feature educational activities, crafts, puppet shows and more.

“Our goal is to make sure the festival accurately represents the demographic attendance we have in North Texas,” Katzer said. “Over 100 cultures are represented.”

Thompson said the International Festival and the Hot Air Balloon Festival are quite unique to Plano, so each event can help bring tourists to the city.

“It is difficult to assign a value to a visitor who enters [for] an event because they come back many times,” he said. “Everyone starts out as a visitor, and from there they can end up becoming a resident or a business owner.”

Fill Plano Hotels

Beyond the annual festivals, hotels in Plano are typically filled during the week with visitors from various corporate headquarters around the city, Thompson said. Toyota Motor North America is headquartered in Plano, and there are also regional headquarters for Liberty Mutual Insurance and more.

“It fills our hotels and generates [occupancy tax] nights, mostly Monday through Thursday,” Thompson said.

When the weekend rolls around and business travelers return home, Thompson said local hotel rooms are often filled with visitors who come for amateur sports tournaments, conventions and other leisure activities. .

“One of the things that really kept us going [during the beginning of the pandemic] is the foresight of the city to have the sports facilities that we have,” Thompson said. “Traditionally, youth sports are kind of recession proof.”

In addition to baseball and football pitches as well as basketball and tennis courts, Thompson said Plano appeals to fans of English-born sports cricket with more pitches to play on than anyone else in the southwestern states. -United.

For those looking for less strenuous activities, options include shopping and nightlife areas such as Legacy West, Plano’s downtown arts district, and The Shops at Legacy.

Comedy club The Plano House of Comedy opened at The Shops at Legacy last year. It hosts a mix of local comics and touring headliners, such as Paul Mecurio. The actor and comedian, who also hosts the ‘Inside Out with Paul Mecurio’ podcast, played at the club from August 18-20. He called the club a great venue with an audience that had a respect for the art form of stand-up comedy.

While in town, Mecurio said he felt Plano’s population grew rapidly as he encountered transplants from all over the United States.

“I would definitely come back and recommend the club [to other comics],” he said.

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