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Lodger’s tax receipts on the increase

Presenting two reports to the Pagosa Springs Town Council on Tuesday night, Town Tourism Coordinator Jennie Green reported that tourism numbers continue to improve locally, and that improvement may be how the town and the TTC has promoted the area to visitors.

In one report, Green indicated that 2009 had been a good year for tourism in the area, with a 9.2 percent increase in lodger’s tax revenues from 2008 and a 4.9 percent increase from 2007.

Lodger’s tax revenues represent a fairly accurate metric for determining how many visitors have come to the area, as the tax is collected for each occupancy. While the number of properties catering to tourists has increased from 19 in 2007 to 27 in 2009, the increased number of properties does not increase lodger’s tax revenues (only property tax revenues). Lodger’s tax revenues represent the percentages paid on room occupancy — the more visitors paying for rooms (or other types of properties), the more lodger’s tax collected.

In her other report, Green indicated that increases in lodger’s tax revenues tend to match up with fulfillment requests. Fulfillment requests are the number of Visitor’s Guides requested from the TTC and the Chamber of Commerce.

For instance, fulfillment requests increased over 180 percent in the April-June quarter of 2009, relative to that same quarter in 2008; lodger’s tax receipts for October-December 2009 also increased by 15.42 percent from the same quarter during the previous year. Likewise, with fulfillment requests up 23.34 in the January-March quarter of 2009, lodger’s tax receipts were up 6.81 percent in the July-September quarter of last year.

In fact, according to Green’s report, those correlations remain consistent across six of eight quarters examined. In Green’s conclusion, the six-month trend between increased fulfillment requests indicates an increase in lodger’s tax receipts.

Town Manager David Mitchem agreed with Green’s conclusion, saying, “I think we can all agree that the Official Visitor’s Guide is an attractive document. I think this data says that it is not only attractive, but effective.”

Pointing to the fact that county lodgers pay less tax than town lodgers (1 percent versus 3 percent), council member Stan Holt said, “It seems to me that there’s a lot of people benefitting from your work, but not contributing.”

Council member Shari Pierce reminded Holt that the County Tourism Commission, the TTC and the Chamber had recently met (see related article) and those issues might be addressed at a later point.

Green broke lodging properties down into several types, as well as how they have fared over the past few years. In town, Green reported that there are two cabin rental-types (unchanged since 2007), nine hotels/motels (also unchanged), an RV/campground (no change), five property management companies (unchanged from 2008 but up one from 2007) and 10 vacation rentals (up one from the previous year and a gain of seven from 2007).

However, with the exception of property management type facilities, which consistently increased in lodger’s tax receipts over the past three years, all other property types did not show consistent benefits: hotels/motels, for instance, did better in 2009 relative to 2008, but worse relative to 2007. However, as pointed out in Green’s report, overall lodger’s tax receipts increased in 2009 relative to the previous two years.

Also in Green’s report, the trend appears to continue as January lodger’s tax receipts showed a 10.6-percent increase over the same time last year, and 15.12 percent over January 2008. The report on February lodger’s tax receipts should be due within a week — more indication if a trend does indeed exist.

With spring break just around the corner, local merchants and lodgers will be looking closely at February’s numbers and the possible trend, hoping that Green’s report on Tuesday was an indication of better times ahead.

jim@pagosasun.com