Despite mixed numbers on January-November sales tax revenues for 2011 (indicating either flat growth or an impressive increase) and a hint at improved jobs numbers in the county, the Town Tourism Committee reported a record year for 2011 in lodgers tax receipts.
Lodgers tax receipts reflect not just taxes paid on occupied rooms in the town and county (i.e. hotel rooms, vacation rentals, campgrounds, etc.) but, by implication, the number of visitors to the area who choose to stay a night (or more) in the area.
Last week’s report shows 2011 year-end collections up 6.07 percent over 2010 — a year that showed record collections on its own. Additionally, 2011 collections were up 17.43 percent over average collections for the previous four years.
Since 2007, the first full year lodgers tax receipts were reported following voter approval in 2006 of a 4-percent levy on rooms occupied in Pagosa Springs (county lodging charges a 1.9 percent tax), lodgers tax receipts have shown, by and large, a steady boost in tourism to the area. Only 2008 showed a decrease from the previous year’s collections, down 4.7 percent from 2007.
Despite the positive news to area tourism, 2011 had its ups and downs, with February, March and June down from the same months in 2010.
While February and March were down just slightly (1.29 and .62 percent, respectively), June was down 3.86 percent from the previous year.
However, June 2010 saw Pagosa Springs hosting two large bike events that were missing last June, suggesting the importance of large events to area tourism.
Although lodgers tax dollars fund facilities and organizations that work to increase tourism — county lodgers tax dollars fund the Visitor Center while the TTC is funded by town lodgers tax collections — the boost in visitor numbers reflected by those collections also benefits the area through money spent with local merchants and restaurants.
However, there is no direct correlation between a boost in lodgers tax collections and local sales tax revenues. For instance, while lodger tax collections were up 10.8 percent in 2009 over the previous year, during that same time period sales tax collections were down 8.39 percent.
Likewise, with 2010 lodgers tax collections up 8.9 percent relative to the previous year, sales tax collections were down 2.28 percent.
The SUN will report year-end sales tax collections in two weeks.
Although a correlation between increased numbers of visitors to the area and a rise in sales tax collections appears evasive, no local merchant or restaurateur will maintain that there is such a thing as too many customers — many of whom are visitors to the area.
In fact, if a direct correlation can be made, April shows the lowest collections for both lodgers tax and sales tax since 2007.
With last year’s lodgers tax report final and with numbers for 2012 just beginning to accumulate, it will be interesting to see how the following year pans out. And with the TTC advocating for development on Reservoir Hill (see related article page A1) that the group says will further boost tourism numbers, it will be interesting to see if visitors will begin to find Pagosa Country a destination in April, much less the rest of the year.