Jones Co. Tourism remains strong with bus tours down

Board of Supervisors
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Bob Hatcher, Jones County Tourism director, offered an update on the organization during the Feb. 14 Jones County Supervisor meeting. He also requested $16,000 from the county for Fiscal Year 2024 funding, as well as 100 percent of the county's Hotel/Motel Tax.

   This is the same funding request of the county in the last several years.

   Hatcher shared some stats and facts about tourism in Jones County…

   • $23.61 million was spent by tourists locally in 2021. This is an increase over the previous year. (State tourism dollars were down in 2021.)

   • The tourism industry is responsible for 115 jobs in Jones County. They bring in an annual payroll of $3.88 million.

   • $1.61 million in local sales tax was paid to the county. This is money that county residents don't have to pay.

   • 2022 estimated Hotel/Motel figures: $88,000 for Monticello and Anamosa combined; $401 for rural Jones County.

   • Last year, the Jones County Tourism Visitors Center saw roughly 7,500 travel parties.

   "They came for the sights and stayed for the stores," Hatcher stated.

   • Jones County Tourism reached approximately 2.5 million people throughout the upper Midwest, a 150-mile radius, through their print media in 2022. Hatcher fulfilled 650 requests for information about Jones County.

   "We still send out a fair amount of literature," he said of brochures and tourism guides. "We expanded our coverage area a bit last year because we want to attract people who stay overnight when they come. We have nice hotels."

   Hatcher also shared their 2023 proposed budget:

   • Total income, $36,265

   • Total expenses, $36,560

   Hatcher told the board of supervisors that Tourism would like to have representation from all Jones County communities.

   "We need someone from Cascade," he said. "I've put the word out to all mayors and city councils to appoint someone."

   Hatcher said those serving on the Tourism board don't necessarily have to be serving on a city council; but appointed by the city.

   "Last year was a banner year," noted Hatcher. "Surprisingly, it was the best year we've ever had."

   Tourism used to stay busy receiving bus tours; however, those forms of travel and tourism are quickly falling by the wayside.

   Hatcher said bus tours have decreased from roughly 35 in a year down to just nine in 2022. He said most of the these one-day bus tours are typically sponsored by banks, and if they cannot fill an entire travel bus, the tours are cancelled.

   "The banks won't make up the difference," Hatcher said of footing the bill. "There's been a 35 to 50 percent increase in the price of bus tours."

   When it comes down to it, Hatcher said he prefers carloads of travelers because they tend to spend more money while they're here and take in more sights.

   "They stay overnight, too," added Hatcher.

   Jones County Tourism is in a new location in downtown Anamosa: The Grant Wood Art Gallery (124 E. Main St.). Hatcher serves a duel purpose offering information on county tourism and information about the history of Grant Wood and the gallery.

   "We're paying half the rent," he said of saving money from their previous location. "We're saving $2,000. We're putting that toward advertising."

   The funding the county allocates toward Tourism goes toward advertising and marketing as well, in addition to office expenses.

   Supervisor Joe Oswald inquired about some of the top places people visit while here. Hatcher offered the Anamosa Prison Museum, Grant Wood Gallery, National Motorcycle Museum, Camp Courageous and the Great Jones County Fair. He said there are also many community events throughout the county that draw people in as well.

   "Those events, though, are not counted in our visitor figures," he clarified.

   Supervisor Jeff Swisher asked if the Stone City Festival was going to return after a hiatus the last few years.

   "There's a new president (of the Stone City Foundation) and I think you'll see it come back this year," offered Hatcher.

   The Foundation received a grant and is working on creating a visitors center inside the "old Gothic building," added Hatcher. "It's unbelievable the number of people who stop and see the Freedom Rock (in Stone City)."

   Hatcher started in this role 13 years ago when he was asked to take over the Tourism director position for just a couple of months.


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