Tuesday, October 17, 2000
Steamboat Springs It's always been easy to draw tourists to Steamboat Springs when the slopes on Mount Werner are covered with snow; but when the hills dry up, the money can do the same.
In a sales tax-based economy, the city relies on tourist dollars throughout the year, and has subsidized the summer marketing efforts of the chamber of commerce to that end. And this summer, it seems that those efforts, on top of a strong local and national economy, have paid big dividends. Although June, July and August are traditionally some of the most difficult months for the Steamboat business community, this summer's sales tax revenues outperformed similar revenue streams in cities like Vail and Aspen.
After holding its own last winter as one of the only ski towns in Colorado to increase its sales tax revenues in one of the toughest ski seasons in the past 10 years, the city is still leading the way through the summer. The city's aggregate sales tax revenue from June, July and August is up $238,476, or 8.2 percent, from last year's figures.
"A big part of it is due to a strong construction economy," said Chamber Resort Executive Vice President Sandy Evans-Hall.
August receipts accounted for 6 percent of the increase.
Evans-Hall thinks that the local economy got a boost from the construction industry this summer, especially in areas like West Steamboat where developments such as the Copper Ridge industrial subdivision now house a growing number of businesses.
Growth in West Steamboat is evidence of economic growth beyond tourism, Evans-Hall said.
Because West Steamboat does not play host to the majority of Steamboat's tourist amenities, this progression implies that the local economy has made its own strides this summer.
Evans-Hall also believes that the chamber's marketing efforts, subsidized in part by the city, account for a good deal of tourism revenue. She worries that in the near future, the council's tentative decision to expedite a phase-out of the city's subsidy of tourism marketing will prove costly.
"It may not be felt next year, but it could be more evident in 2002. It always takes a while for these things to show," Evans-Hall said.
Vail and Aspen, both of which saw decreases this winter in sales tax revenues as compared to 1999, have bounced back to some degree over the summer.
Aspen, which directly receives only 1.7 percent of sales tax revenues levied in the city, took in $1,861,154 over June, July and August.
That's $96,079, or 5.4 percent, more than last year's figures. Patti Hecht, a public relations director for the Aspen chamber said that summer tourism is doing well in Aspen, so much so that the chamber is now more concerned with boosting winter skier days.
"Occupancy rates are pretty much neck and neck for winter and summer, though visitors in winter still outspend those in the summer," Hecht said.
The city of Aspen supplements its general fund with proceeds from the county's tax revenues and a property tax. Still, sales tax can help indicate the health of the city's economy.
Vail, similarly, had a rough winter, but was able to bounce back over the summer.
The city's resurgence was in part due to increased lodging numbers, Finance Director Steven Thompson said.
"You're seeing people coming and spending more time here in the summer," Thompson said. "I look at that to determine how we're doing during the summer."
Through June, July and August, Vail's sales tax revenues jumped $63,917 or 2.2 percent over last year's figures. Much of that increase came from the lodging industry, Thompson said.
To reach Avi Salzman call 871-4203 or e-mail email@example.com