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Lodging tax tops $100K for first time

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By Lynn Burton
Sopris Sun Staff Writer

Carbondale’s dedicated lodging tax hit $100,000 for the first time in 2016, fueled in part by an increase in the number of vacation rental properties, the town-owned Gateway RV Park and a wide-ranging tourism promotion campaign.

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“The ($100,000) amount represents a 17 percent increase over 2015, and is 109 percent higher than 2011,” said a Carbondale Chamber of Commerce press release this week.

The release noted that Carbondale voters approved a 2 percent tax on lodging facilities in 2003, which was introduced in 2004.

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The Town of Carbondale collects the tax from 45 properties, and contracts with the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce primarily for the “promotion, development, and marketing of tourism in Carbondale,” the press release continued.

Lodging includes “the lease or rental of any hotel room, motel room, lodging or inn room, motor hotel, guest house, mobile home, bed and breakfast, or any other place that furnishes sleeping accommodation,” the press release said.

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Currently 39 vacation rental properties (such as Airbnb or VRBO) assess the lodging tax, as well as five hotels/B&Bs/inns, and the Gateway RV Park.

Carbondale’s two major lodges, Days Inn and Country Inn & Suites, are both located in the Cowan Center and were constructed in the 1990s.

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Carbondale’s lodging options have increased since 2011, with eight establishments holding sales tax licenses that year, followed by 10 in 2012 and 2013, 15 in 2014, 34 in 2015 and 45 in 2016, according to Carbondale Finance Director Renae Gustine.

The increase in 2015 and 2016 are presumably due to the new vacation property rentals, which are generally defined as short stays in private homes.

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The Gateway RV Park, located near the intersection of Highway 82 and 133, offers a total of 19 sites for recreational vehicles and tent camping. Overnight rates range from $20 to $35 per night.

The Town of Carbondale has owned and operated the Gateway RV Park since it purchased the property several years ago.

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Since 2013, seasonal occupancy has increased from 30 percent that year to 67 percent in 2016, according to Recreation Director Eric Brendlinger, who is in charge of the facility.

The Carbondale Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Council are also playing a role in the lodging tax uptick through their ongoing tourism promotion campaigns.

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Chamber of Commerce Director Andrea Stewart told The Sopris Sun that in 2016 the Tourism Council used $77,000 to perform the following: advertising, familiarization (FAM) tours, marketing, merchandise (locally designed and printed Carbondale-branded T-shirts, stickers and stainless steel cups), new iPad kiosks, photography, public relations, social media updates, website redesign of, and ongoing website updates and maintenance.

Also in 2016, $26,000 was allocated to staffing expenses, including payroll and payroll taxes.

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The chamber works with FootSteps Marketing for social media and website issues, and Sarah-Jane Johnson (SJPR) for public relations, Stewart said.

The chamber’s 2017 tourism promotion budget is $72,000. The 17-member Carbondale Tourism Council meets monthly.

Wrapping up news of the $100,000 milestone, Stewart said, “Since 2011 the lodging tax revenue has more than doubled, which is an indication of a steady increase in overnight guests and visitors to Carbondale.

Tourism has become a vital part of the town’s economy, and we believe our PR and marketing efforts have helped many local businesses thrive thanks to more tourism dollars.”

Tourism Council Chair Darren Broome added, “The secret is out: Carbondale is a great place to visit. We’re thrilled to see more guests coming year-round for unique events like First Fridays, Mountain Fair and 5Point Film Festival. Plus our convenient location to major ski resorts and abundant offering of mountain activity sets us at the top of many Colorado bucket-lists.”

Published in The Sopris Sun on March 9, 2017.