By Beth Lawrence
It is too early to say how much of an impact the coming of a new upscale hotel at Sequoyah National Golf Club might have on Jackson County, but officials are optimistic.
“We would anticipate increases in occupancy and sales taxes, along with the additional jobs and multiplied spending as suggested,” said Rich Price, the county’s economic development director. “And those impacts are substantial.”
However, the county does not have any data in hand this early in the process.
It is possible that the developers, Dream Catcher Hotels and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, could provide the county with courtesy documentation projecting annual room nights and average daily rates for The Cherokee at Sequoyah National.
Those numbers are needed to tabulate the amount of revenue the county might see as a result of occupancy tax.
“The developer is not required to provide this information to us, unless they are seeking some type of financial assistance or incentive from the county or state,” Price said.
The developers have not requested aid or incentives.
Tourism Development Authority Director Nick Breedlove calls it exciting to see the U.S. 441 Gateway corridor being developed.
“It will provide a much needed lift in available room inventory in Jackson County,” he said. “We currently have around 769 motel and hotel rooms. The addition of 125 new rooms will increase our supply by 16.25 percent.”
That number will change after remodeling at High Hampton Resort in Cashiers is complete.
Based on current occupancy rates of 55 percent during peak times with an average rate of $105 a night, a 125 room hotel would bring in $52,695 in local sales tax and $105,390 in occupancy taxes.
Those numbers could be higher given that The Cherokee at Sequoyah National will be an upscale lodge and would have a higher room rate. The new hotel would also have an advantage over most stand-alone hotels. It could likely see greater occupancy rates given its connection to the golf course and proximity to the casino.
The addition will also bring jobs, giving the economy another boost.
At this point in the process, developers do not have estimates on wages for the 65 to 75 jobs the hotel is expected to bring to the area. The company will conduct a wage survey and analysis within the next few months and release information when wages are finalized, said Zeke Cooper, Dreamcatcher’s vice president of business development.
The Cherokee could also have a secondary impact on the county beyond sales, property and occupancy taxes.
Its arrival and that of Mystic Distillery, a farm-to-bottle bourbon maker set to break ground in spring, could bring other developers to the area, Price said.
Cooper’s goal for the hotel is to attract a diversified clientele drawing from golfers, visitors to the casino, families and others who come to the area for a variety of reasons.
It would “not only have golf as a primary driver of overnight stays, but it would certainly be fed by additional demand from Harrah’s Cherokee,” Price said, echoing Cooper’s sentiments.