As the summer of 2004 draws to a close, it is important for us to reflect on the economic success we have enjoyed and recommit ourselves to sustaining that success.
By nearly every economic standard of measurement, the summer of 2004 has been better than the two previous. Sales tax revenues for the month of June were nearly 9 percent above receipts for the same month last year. For the year, receipts are up 5.65 percent. Lodging receipts were up 17 percent in June.
Other segments of our local economy also are seeing an upswing, including construction and real estate sales
Such economic trends did not happen by accident. While some of the success can and should be attributed to the improving national and state economy, there have been other, more local steps taken to spark the rebound. These include:
n Greater state and local tourism marketing.
n Restructured Triple Crown schedule.
n The addition of new events.
n And added summertime air service.
Last year, the state of Colorado spent more than $5 million on tourism promotion, more than double the amount spent in 2002. While that didn't translate into more overnight visitors in 2003, tourism spending did increase to $1.05 billion last year. And tourism officials across the state believe the increased spending on marketing and promotion is paying big dividends this summer.
Triple Crown played a significant role in the community's economic success this summer as well. A revamped Triple Crown schedule, including the addition of lower-level tournaments, attracted more teams and more families to Steamboat. There was an average of 110 teams in Steamboat during the 2004 season, compared to just 70 in 2003.
Events and conventions -- including The Great Race, the Colorado Municipal League convention, Ride the Rockies, the Bicycle Tour of Colorado and the new Steamboat Wine Festival -- enhanced Steamboat's image and helped attract even more visitors.
The addition of daily flights to Houston on Continental -- and marketing and promotion of those flights -- resulted in the busiest July ever at Yampa Valley Regional Airport. The number of passengers in July -- 4,824 -- more than doubled the number of passengers from the previous year. The Houston flights were 75 percent full last month, and officials have indicated the flights will return next summer and may be expanded. A Chamber Resort Association survey showed that airline guests stayed an average of 4.5 nights during the summer and spent more on average.
Our community is always economically healthier when our tourism-driven economy is humming. We will feel the impact of the summer of 2004 for months to come in the form of increased tax revenues that will help pay for our parks and schools.
But it would be wrong to assume that such economic conditions will automatically be replicated in the years to come.
Accommodating Triple Crown will require more fields. Summer air service will require airline flight guarantees. And maintaining tourism at the level we enjoyed this summer will require increased spending on marketing and promotion. This summer has been great. The challenge is to make sure that, as a community, we do the things necessary to ensure future summers are just as good or better.