The city of Durango is reporting strong July sales tax numbers, which are based on sales made in June.
In fact, the Central Business District is reporting its strongest ever July sales tax collection report – with $770,812 collected on sales made downtown in June.
“It strikes me as a really encouraging way to enter the tourist season,” said Tim Walsworth, executive director of the Business Improvement District. “We’re anxious to see the August report, which will be based on sales in July, which is typically our biggest month of the summer.”
In total, the city collected $2.5 million in sales tax receipts for July. That’s up 12.8% from July 2018.
Year-to-date, through the end of July, the city has collected $13.82 million in sales taxes, a 2.5% increase from year-to-date collections through July 31, 2018.
Lodgers tax collections for July for rooms rented in June came in at $142,973, up 13.9% from June 2018, the month of the 416 Fire. As of the end of July, the city had collected $503,929 in lodgers taxes, up 4.2% from 2018.
The numbers indicate a return to normalcy after 2018’s fire-scarred tourism season.
Retailers, restaurateurs and the train report a strong tourism season – comparable, if down a bit, from the strong season of 2017.
“We’re doing fine. We’re having a good season. We’re down about 4% from 2017, which is not unusual. We don’t even count 2018 because of the fire,” said Al Harper, owner of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.
Harper also said he expects a strong winter season based on early reservations for The Polar Express.
Maria Creech, an employee at the woman’s apparel shop The Sparrow Mercantile, 801 Main Ave., said, “We have a lot of local regulars, but I’d say 50% of our sales are to tourists. We depend on them in the summer, and we’re having a really strong summer.”
She added, “I’d say sales are about the same as 2017, if not a little stronger.”
Rod Barker, president and CEO of the Strater Hotel, said 2018 began looking like it might be a record-breaker before the fire, but the company ended the year 40% down compared with 2017.
This year, Barker said, “It’s pulsating. We’ve had some high days and some days that are abnormally low. We’ve seen slow Fridays, when you’d normally expect a strong day, and we’ve set records on Mondays, when you’d expect to be lackluster.”
Rob Schmidt, manager of Duranglers, 923 Main Ave., said high runoff in the Animas River moderated sales in June, but he said July and August sales have been strong.
“It was a different June for us. The river was too high for good fishing. When the river’s high and dirty, when the Animas is off color, we don’t do as well. But foot traffic in July and August has been strong,” Schmidt said.
Karen Barger, owner of Seasons Rotisserie & Grill, 764 Main Ave., said, “We’re not quite as strong as 2017. We don’t even look at 2018 for a benchmark.”
Based on experience from the 2002 Missionary Ridge Fire, Barger said it may take some time before a full rebound is seen.
“There may still be a bit of a hangover from the 416 Fire,” she said. “It took about a year to get back to normal from the Missionary Ridge Fire, and it might follow the same pattern with the 416 Fire.”