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Chamber of Commerce Pleased with Tourism Despite Lower Funds

LAWTON, Okla_The President of the Lawton-Ft. Sill Chamber of Commerce said it has been a good year for tourism and economic development, in spite of a slightly smaller Hotel-Motel Tax Fund.

That report was delivered to the City Council Tuesday night as a part of their regular accounting of how their allotment of the Hotel-Motel Tax money is spent.

The Hotel-Motel Tax is the 5% charge that any person pays when staying in a hotel or motel in Lawton. The city then delegates that money out to various groups, 70% to the Chamber of Commerce. On Tuesday night, the Chamber showed what they have done with that money in terms of recruitments of tourism, tracking of visitors and plans for the future.

Lawton tourism has seen some changes over the past year, and the Chamber of Commerce is excited about sharing their successes with the city.

Chamber President Debra Burch said, "We're really excited about what we've done with our tracking methods because we've gotten much more focused on finding out how many people are coming to Lawton-Ft. Sill through the funding of events."

Local events like the 'Spirit of Survival' and events brought in like 'The Grand National Horseman's' event and even a national softball tournament. All of these events bring tourists to Lawton, and the tracking helps understand how much money the city will make and helps us bring in bigger attractions each year.

While the tracking of tourism has been successful, the Chamber did still see a decline in the collection of Hotel-Motel tax dollars for the second year in a row.

Burch said, "The economy has changed, and we have more hotels now than we did. Sometimes corporate travel decreases based on what's happening in the economy."

And while Burch said the decrease is no reason for alarm, it is on their radar, and they will be working to figure out how to better focus the use of the tax dollars to generate more economic growth.

"We'll be paying attention to where the funds are coming from, the hotels that are reporting, visiting with them, finding out what they know, what their visitation is like, what they're seeing as a decline. It's of concern to us and we want to make the most of what we have and we want to continue to grow that," Burch Said.

Also at Tuesday's meeting, The Economic Growth Committee presented their efforts on how they have used the tax money to make Lawton a more globalized city through multimedia. The new community video released on YouTube has gotten over 1,700 views, and the Chamber's new economic development website has received over 130,000 hits. Something the committee says shows Lawton is changing the way it does business for the better.

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