It’s football season, and we’re back to keeping close tabs on our favorite college and professional teams. As far as the tourism season goes, the half-time highlights are a good indicator of how our team is doing and whether or not we might finish with another winning season.
The city of Durango keeps track of retail sales and lodging tax collections, and reports are released monthly. Retailers and hospitality operators have a month to submit tax records for the previous month so city reports are one month in arrears. For example, the just-released August figures are for July business activity.
In our community, the months of May through October generate approximately 75 percent of all overnight room sales. Yes, that means summer for many retailers, restaurants, activities and lodging properties is an important make-it-or-break-it season. For us locals, it might mean having to make a dinner reservation, a short wait at the bar or an extra trip around the block to find a parking space, but without a robust tourism high-season. your favorite restaurant might not exist.
In May, the volume of lodging tax collections takes a noticeable jump because of warm spring weather and special events. By the end of June, demand has further increased and both room occupancy and nightly rates are rising. When we reach July, we traditionally record our busiest month. The month of August and the Labor Day weekend used to signal the end of summer, but not anymore. September and October have become reliable producers of visitor and tax revenue, which keeps our economy moving.
So, the second half is now underway; how’s it going? After a solid start to the year, this past June-for-May and May-for-April reports showed city sales tax had dropped 1.1 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively. These were the first negative numbers since the recession and were understandably concerning. Since then, July-for-June produced a gain of 5.6 percent and August-for-July 3.5 percent. with a year-to-date figure of 3.1 percent.
On the lodging tax side, the June-for-May collections showed a negative 7.6 percent with all other 2016 prior months on the plus side. July-for-June was 9.1 percent and August for July 4 percent, for a year-to-date total of 4.7 percent.
Generally, June through October heavily influences the final score. Right now, September and October look solid, bolstered by economic impacts of returning students, fall colors, hunting seasons, special railroad events and many other happenings yet on the schedule.
If tourism had a fantasy league, we’d be well on our way to another winning season. In fact, since 2011, lodgers tax- supported tourism has seen steady year-over-year gains of 1.9 percent, 6.3 percent, 11.6 percent and 7.4 percent. At the same time, since 2011, city sales tax collections have finished the year 3.8 percent, 5.7 percent, 5.6 percent, 5.1 percent and 5.8 percent.
Wanna play? It’s easy to follow the scores. Go to the city’s website, Durangogov.org, click on Departments, Finance, Sales Tax and Lodging Tax, History Reports. Go, Durango.
email@example.com. Bob Kunkel is executive director of the Durango Area Tourism Office.