Roberts: “General promotion of Colorado” is not the idea behind $10M event incentive program
Bill targets specific, one-time events
VAIL — Rep. Dylan Roberts is aware that the trailhead parking might get crowded this summer, and in-town buses could be busy, as well.
But in promoting specific events, rather than general tourism, local communities might plan better for the crowds that could be headed here, Roberts said.
That’s why Roberts, who represents Eagle and Routt counties in the state legislature, is targeting one-time events like weddings in his recently proposed Colorado Meeting and Events Incentive Program. The bill to create that program is scheduled for review by the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee on Thursday.
“I wouldn’t want to just give a stimulus to the tourism office, for just general promotion of Colorado,” Roberts said on Saturday. “I think we do a pretty good job of doing that — Colorado promotes itself to some extent. But we want people to know both in the state and from outside the state that we’re ready to start hosting events, too, and Colorado is going to give you a little bit of an incentive if you want to come do your festival, or do your wedding here.”
Making up for lost ground
Roberts said when the federal relief efforts of 2020 were being dolled out — programs which included unemployment boosts and grants to businesses — the events industry missed out on some of those infusions of capital from the government.
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“The origins of this idea for me came directly from my constituents in both counties (Eagle and Routt),” Roberts said. “Around this time last year, when we were starting to go into lockdowns and stay at home orders, and some of the federal relief money was being rolled out, the folks that weren’t getting a lot of help were the folks that own event venues, or folks that work in the arts and entertainment industry. They were the ones who, with stay at home orders, were unable to keep their businesses open or keep their streams of revenue coming in.”
Roberts said he has been thinking about this effort for about a year.
“I started realizing we were doing a lot of help and assistance for restaurants and other types of small businesses, but the events and tourism industry was missing out on a lot of those opportunities for relief,” Roberts said. “I think any assistance we can give them this year and next is going to help, and if they’ve been able to stay in business or reopen, this will be a little bit of a boost for them when they got left out a little bit over the last year.”
If House Bill 21-1263 is approved, then any event which takes place July 1 to Dec. 31 and generates at least 25 paid overnight stays in a lodging establishment is eligible for rebates of up to 10% for hard costs and 25% for costs associated with making the event compliant with health orders.
This week, when the bill reaches the House Business Affairs Committee — where it is being cosponsored by Rep. Matt Soper (R-Delta), Sen. Robert Rodriguez (D-Denver) and Sen. Dennis Hisey (R-El Paso) — Roberts said legislators will change the language in the bill slightly to make it more clear that weddings are eligible for rebates under the program.
A state stimulus package has allocated $10 million of existing state funds for this program, Roberts said, and events of all varieties should consider taking advantage of the program, if passed.
“If out-of-state organizations are looking to do their annual conference at a hotel, they can utilize this credit as an incentive to book in Colorado,” Roberts said. “And I think getting long-term bookings on the calendar for our events and hotel centers will be incredibly valuable for them for their long-range financial planning, to know they have business coming in.”