The city enjoyed a stellar year in 2015 for both sales tax and lodgers tax collections, reflecting strong economic growth.
Durango sales tax collections brought in about $14.96 million, a 5.8 percent increase compared with 2014. Lodgers tax collections totaled $975,000, a 7.4 percent increase.
Strong job growth likely helped drive high sales tax collections, said Roger Zalneraitis, executive director of the La Plata County Economic Development Alliance.
Slower economic growth could be likely this year because of a labor shortage and layoffs in the oil and gas industry, he said.
The numbers do not reflect December 2015 because the total includes December 2014. So it is too soon to say how merchants may have done during the holiday season, said Tim Walsworth, executive director of the Business Improvement District. His group represents merchants downtown and along north Main Avenue.
But Walsworth would like to see between a 6 to 7 percent increase in sales tax in December 2015 compared with the previous year.
Increased revenue from lodgers taxes is likely tied to a 10 percent growth in ridership on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and a strong start to the ski season at Purgatory Resort in November, said Bob Kunkel, executive director of the Durango Area Tourism Office.
The gains could be sustained by new hotel rooms coming online in the new year, Zalneraitis said.
“I think there is a lot of pent-up demand,” he said.
Purgatory’s package ticket deals, low gas prices and the National Parks Service’s Centennial promotions could also encourage more people to come this year, Kunkel said.
“I think Purgatory has established some new excitement,” he said.
He predicts lodgers tax collections could increase by 5 percent or more this year.
The ongoing panhandling downtown and the legalization of marijuana are the main challenges for tourism in the coming year.
The Business Improvement District is planning to continue its campaign to encourage residents to give to nonprofits rather than panhandlers to help the homeless, Walsworth said.
But he was pleased to see that the increase in panhandling visibility in 2015 did not seem to hurt local merchants.
“It doesn’t seem at first blush we lost sales from it,” he said.