City sales and lodgers tax collections saw strong growth in October, reflecting a robust end to the tourist season and minimal impact from the Gold King Mine spill.
The lodgers tax was up 16.3 percent to $87,400 from $75,100. Sales tax was up by 7.3 percent to $299,900 from $279,600.
The tourist season typically starts to slow in mid-October, but sales tax collections during that month have seen strong growth since 2009, so the start to the shoulder season may be getting pushed back, said Tim Walsworth, executive director of the Business Improvement District.
Low gas prices, brilliant fall colors and favorable weather all likely helped draw tourists this autumn, said Bob Kunkel, executive director of the Durango Area Tourism Office.
While some feared the mine spill that closed the river and turned it orange a few days in August would have a lasting effect on tourism, the numbers show that has not been the case, he said.
“It was really over, from a tourist standpoint, in a couple of days,” Kunkel said.
The tourism office spent an extra $30,000 on fall marketing in New Mexico, west Texas and southern Arizona this year. But it’s difficult to measure how much impact this spending had on travelers’ choices, he said.
The continued uptick in attendance at the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering and the Durango Double Trail and Road Half Marathons also could have contributed to the solid increase in tax collections, Walsworth said.
About 4,000 people attend the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering and about 60 percent of them are from out of town. The Durango Double added about 140 runners this year, up to 442 runners, and about 30 percent of the participants traveled to town for the race, Walsworth said.
At this rate, Kunkel expects the lodgers tax collections to finish the year 7 or 8 percent ahead of 2014. If the trend holds, 2015 will be the fifth consecutive year for growth.
The lodgers tax has seen major swings this year, with four months of decline and several months of double-digit growth. But it is difficult to say why, he said.
The forecast for Durango’s tax collections are bound to be positive if winter storms continue to bring Purgatory powder, Kunkel said.
“A good start to the ski season is a good end to our year,” he said.