Vail sales tax growth is modest
By the numbers:
$1.31: Dollars required to buy one British Pound as of July 22.*
76 cents: Dollars require to buy one Canadian Dollar as of July 22.*
$2.18: Colorado average price of regular gasoline as of July 22.**
55.2 percent: Ski season days of at least 70 percent occupancy in Vail.***
VAIL — Business in Vail has been strong through the most recent ski season and into the summer, with a few headwinds along the way.
According to a recent report from Destimetrics, a Denver-based company that tracks lodging and other data from mountain resorts, Vail’s most recent ski season was a good one, with a few exceptions.
While Vail’s lodging revenue was up for the ski season, occupancy dropped slightly. That’s the first time since the national economy slumped hard starting in 2008. That slight decline was more than offset by increases in average daily rates.
As a result, ski-season occupancy still hasn’t matched it pre-recession peaks — it remains off by about 6 percent — but rates have exceeded the old peaks by more than 20 percent.
Those rate increases are a response, in part, to demand for rooms.
According to Destimetrics, winter occupancy exceeded 70 percent on roughly 100 days, about 55 percent of the entire season. Of those 100 days, occupancy exceeded 80 percent about 64 percent of the time.
Not so Rosy Retail
That’s good news for lodges, of course. But the retail picture wasn’t as rosy, particularly in the ski season’s final weeks.
According to town of Vail figures, retail tax collections in March grew only fractionally over the same month in 2015.
Given that Easter is generally considered the peak of the spring portion of the ski season, it’s no surprise that sales and lodging tax collections in April fell substantially from 2015.
Lodging tax collections were off by more than 35 percent in April, with retail sales tax collections falling nearly 27 percent. Overall, Vail sales taxes fell in April but just more than 1 percent.
Numbers for the entire ski season show retail sales tax collections off by 6.8 percent in Vail Village, and 3.4 percent in Lionshead Village. Lodging tax collections were up slightly — 4 percent in Vail Village and almost 5.8 percent in Lionshead Village.
Those numbers come on the heels of a very successful 2014-’15 season.
Among the other taxes the town collects, the biggest jump was seen in the construction materials tax, which increased 19 percent.
While the retail sector hasn’t been robust, a couple of Vail business owners say they’re doing well.
At the Double Diamond Ski Shop in Lionshead, general manager Matt Carroll said his ski season and summer numbers so far have been acceptable, if not ground-breaking.
“We’re about even with last year for the summer, and still up from 2014,” Carroll said. Carroll described the shop’s ski season as “strong,” with both early and late snow contributing to the bottom line.
In Vail Village, American Ski Exchange co-owner Jackie Higgins told a similar story.
After a remodeling project, and shrinking the store to rent space to another retailer, Higgins said the past ski season was “pretty good,” followed by a “nice” summer.
“We’re seeing a lot of people from all over,” Higgins said. “We aren’t seeing a lot from different countries, but we’re seeing a lot of tourists from Minnesota, Ohio and Texas.”
That drop in international guests is due in large part to the strength of the U.S. dollar. That strength means a vacation to this country is more expensive — and sometimes far more expensive — than it was two or three years ago.
Grumbles about Parking
Back in Lionshead Village, Carroll said he’s heard some grumbling about parking, which fills up most weekdays. Much of the structure’s parking is being taken by construction workers and Vail Valley Medical Center employees.
But, Carroll said, most tourists don’t know that — “they just think we’re busy,” he said. “The grumbling I’ve heard is mostly from employees around the area, people working the afternoon shift, who end up parking on the frontage road or at Vail Village.”
That said, summer’s proceeding nicely, Carroll said.
“We haven’t seen a ton of growth, but we’re not down,” he said.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, email@example.com and @scottnmiller.
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