It’s election season, and we face many decisions about potential increases in taxes, fees and mill levies. All of these sources of revenue are tied to projects or services that we require, demand, need or want.
As our needs and wants increase, so must revenue sources increase to meet those needs. The process forces us to think, debate, weigh options, prioritize and find majority consensus.
Fortunately, communities have revenue sources other than the locals’ pocketbooks to help fund the services their municipalities provide. For Durango and La Plata County, one of those revenue sources is tourism. Many of the services we enjoy (and sometimes take for granted) come from the general fund, and much of the city’s general fund comes from tourism activity.
Local lodging, restaurants, retailers, galleries, campgrounds, recreational attractions and traveler services make up our tourism industry. They collectively generate millions of dollars in revenue that not only keeps their businesses growing and our tourism industry flourishing, (and their 6,000 employees working), but contributes handsomely to government budgets through local sales taxes.
Every business promotes itself. But, when it’s necessary to promote an entire destination, the more cost-effective and efficient way is to use an umbrella marketing organization. That is essentially the mission of the Durango Area Tourism Office – to promote the collective features and attributes of our area to potential destination visitors. Who pays for that?
DATO is funded by a 2 percent lodgers tax (created in 1980) that is added to the cost of a visitor’s overnight stay in a Durango or La Plata County lodging property.
That 2 percent tax passes through city, state and county hands and becomes the operating budget for DATO’s marketing programs. In effect, it is today’s tourist who provides the funding to attract tomorrow’s tourist.
The flip side being that we as residents bear no tax burden to fund our tourism outreach programs. Not a bad deal.
As we look ahead to future election seasons, local voters will someday need to re-visit our 2 percent lodgers tax because marketing costs increase and we are annually becoming less competitive against other tourism-driven economies like Moab, Grand Junction and Estes Park.
Being that the national average for lodgers-tax collections is 6.6 percent, the tourism industry believes that our overnight guest would accept an increase to say 4 percent, without jeopardizing demand or customer satisfaction.
For now, the local tourism industry is strong.
This year, we expect a year-end 4 percent gain compared with 2014. Tourism is clean industry and the front door to economic development. A healthy tourism industry can certainly contribute to economic resiliency, and will do it by paying its own way forward. Not a bad deal.
email@example.com. Bob Kunkel is executive director of the Durango Area Tourism Office.