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National Civil War Museum: Hotel tax allocation is critical to marketing

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The Dauphin County commissioners today heard from officials at the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg about local hotel tax dollars received by the museum for marketing — funding Mayor Eric Papenfuse wants to see cut.

Commissioners Jeff Haste, Mike Pries and George Hartwick III made no decision on what to do about the nearly $300,000 the museum receives annually.

Museum CEO Wayne Motts said those marketing dollars are critical to the attraction’s future because they cover promotional expenses and marketing personnel. Without the funds, it would “severely cripple” the museum, he said, citing potential layoffs of staff and diminished outreach efforts that would likely affect attendance and merchandising sales.

The museum estimates that it has a direct economic impact of about $5 million annually. Motts said that is a conservative estimate, because it does not include Harrisburg ZIP codes and school groups.

Museum surveys over the last four years have found that 36 percent of patrons said they were staying in a hotel during their visit to Harrisburg.

The economic impact is likely much higher when indirect spending by visitors and museum employees is factored in, Motts said.

Here is more from the meeting:

A spokesman for the Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau said the bureau is comfortable with budgetary figures provided by the museum regarding its use of the hotel tax funds. 

"We have already explored all of our legal options available to us. We're legally bound by the contract," said Rick Dunlap. 

The bureau will wait to comment further until the commissioners weigh in on a course of action, he said.

Jason Scott

Jason Scott

Jason Scott covers state government, real estate and construction, media and marketing, and Dauphin County. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at jasons@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @JScottJournal. Circle Jason Scott on .

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