The Anasazi Heritage Center, 27501 Colorado Highway 184 in Dolores. (diary photo)
City flights boost revenue to $342,417, up 42% from 2021
Domestic travel and urban escapes for Colorado’s great outdoors during the pandemic helped propel Montezuma County’s subtenant tax revenue to new heights in 2022.
Funding for chambers of commerce and other organizations that support tourism in the county is $342,417, the highest since the lodger tax was introduced. Of this amount, $314,200 was requested to be granted access.
After the meeting of the subtenant tax committee on April 15, the payment of the subsidy was decided unanimously. It included the Dolores Chamber of Commerce, $45,000; Manco’s Chamber of Commerce, $50,000; Cortez Cultural Center, $34,000; Mesa Verde Country, $100,000; and Ute Mountain Roundup Rodeo, $2,500.
The funds used for emergency or contingency distributions are $78,217.
1,365 rooms scattered across Cortez, Dolores, and Mancos are subject to the 1.9 percent county tax. It is spread across five hotels, four bed and breakfasts, 14 RV sites, one hostel, 10 vacation rentals, 14 cabin rentals, and three guest farms. The tourist tax is paid by the visitors staying in the locations.
Towards the end of the year, the tax is collected and distributed as a grant to various organizations and groups that have applied for the funds. The aim of the lodging tax is to put money back into the tourism industry.
Farview Lodge in Mesa Verde National Park contributes to a lodger tax that helps fund chambers of commerce and tourism organizations in the area. (diary photo)
While taxpayers’ money from short-term rentals has so far flowed into the country’s general fund, 2022 will be the first year that all funds will be channeled into the local economy.
“We’re hoping for a slight increase in the year-end total once this money is transferred from the state to our county,” said Brian Bartlett, secretary of the Montezuma County Lodgers Tax Committee.
Revenue of $342,417 in 2022 represented an increase of almost 43% compared to $196,768 in 2020 and $196,700 in 2021 and more than doubled the $149,000 in 2019.
Despite the local economic slowdown in 2020 and 2021, Bartlett said the impact is less than expected.
“Although we experienced an immediate halt to all international travel, our domestic travel has picked up the slack in 2021 and helped us reach our largest available amount ever awarded in 2022,” Bartlett said.
The southwestern Colorado area saw an influx of domestic travel due to its rural appeal. With many major cities facing tight restrictions during the pandemic, city dwellers flocked to southwest Colorado for its camping and outdoor recreation opportunities.
Before COVID, the average overnight stay for visitors was 2.6 nights, but in 2021-2022 the average overnight stay increased to 3.1.
“Many of our short term vacation rentals were booked through much of 2020 and all of 2021 by these folks who decided to set up a ‘remote base camp’ to work from while living in our incredible area and enjoying the benefits .” said Bartlett.
Campgrounds and RV parks in the area also saw a surge in business due to the surge in RV purchases in 2021.
High gas prices cooled RV traffic in 2022, but Bartlett hopes the situation will be rectified in 2023.
Although international travel fell below pre-pandemic levels, Bartlett said forecasts call for a recovery in international visitor numbers beginning in 2023, with a noticeable impact through 2024.
“This is a big issue for us locally because while we value all travel to and through our region, studies for many years have shown that international travelers spend five times more money on the market than domestic travelers on average,” said Bartlett. “This not only affects hotels, motels and campgrounds, but also restaurants, activity providers, gift shops and shopping in general for our market partners.”
Most international travelers came from Germany, the United Kingdom and Australia, but forecasts indicate an increase in visitors from Italy and France in 2023 and 2024.
If international travel picks up as expected, it’s possible the guest tax will see another record year as it continues to impact tourism in the county and surrounding areas.