City raking in business

Sales tax up 11.6 percent in January

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— Coming off a year in which the city took in 8.5 percent more in sales tax revenue than it had in 1999, the city is counting on the economy staying strong enough in 2001 to produce at least 4 percent more than it did in 2000. And based on January collections, early business receipts may be a harbinger of positive growth.

"It's a good start," said Don Taylor, the city's finance director, of the 11.6 percent growth over January 2000.

The city received a total of $1,508,024 in sales tax dollars from January, which traditionally is a strong month in terms of sales tax receipts.

While the utilities industries again brought in more than 30 percent more than they had last year, the growth was pushed primarily by industries such as lodging and retail. Lodging is often a good indicator of the strength of the tourist season, as is the city's accommodation tax, the receipts from which rose 12.2 percent.

Lodging numbers, however, were somewhat deceptive in January due to a number of factors, said Sandy Evans-Hall, the executive vice president of the Steamboat Chamber Resort Association.

Evans-Hall said the two previous Januaries have been down in terms of lodging, and if one compares this January with January 1998, the increase is only about 1.5 percent.

Evans-Hall also noted certain resort hotels such as the Steamboat Grand have recently opened and now command a share of the lodging market, which means less new customers may be getting spread around to the rest of the hotels and motels in Steamboat.

Mike Lomas, the manager of the Best Western Ptarmigan, a ski-in ski-out hotel on the mountain, and the Alpiner downtown, also said new hotels have taken some of the business from older lodges. The lodging industry revenue increase in January did not bless Lomas, who said he probably lost some business to the Grand and other new establishments.

He said the increase in lodging revenue may have had less impact on individual businesses because the market has expanded.

Evans-Hall also noted that the Y2K scare hurt tourism and lodging businesses in 2000 and allowed for a rebound in 2001.

Taylor echoed Evans-Halls' comments.

"I know the travel and tourism industry in general was affected by the Y2K issue," Taylor said.

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