Vail sales tax sees resurgence in Jan. |

Vail sales tax sees resurgence in Jan.

Cliff Thompson

Vail’s January sales tax collection totals provide more assurance that there are more out-of-town visitors staying in hotels in town this year.

Sales tax collections are up 10 percent for the month, the second largest increase in a year. It’s welcome news to Vail, which has been caught in a decade-long slide of retail activity. Receipts from the town’s 4 percent sales tax from the 600 businesses in town are viewed as an indicator of the economic activity.

Economic indicators elsewhere -Vail Resorts’ second quarter report and commercial passenger totals at the Eagle County Airport – also point to resurgence in so-called destination guests. Last year ,the war in Iraq, the lingering national economic slump and world terrorism jitters conspired to slow the arrival of the visitors who have been Vail’s bread and butter during ski season. A count of passengers flying in and out of the Eagle County airport in February showed a 12 percent jump in numbers. Vail Resorts is also reporting strong bookings through the remainder of the ski season.

Nearly 45 percent of the town’s annual operating revenue is derived from sales tax. Total taxable sales activity reported by the town in January was $54.9 million, which put $2.19 million into town coffers. Last January that total was $1.99 million.

Last year, those tax collections declined 3.7 percent, but this year it looks like fortune may be shining on Vail.

“January for us was excellent,” said Mick Warth, manager at Russell’s Restaurant on Bridge Street. Warth has worked in town for nearly three decades.

“It was the best January I ever remember,” he said. “Even in the good old days you’d always get a little lull in January. This year it carried straight on through and was as good as February and March.”

In Vail Village and Lionshead receipts were up 10.1 and 18 percent respectively with large gains in retail, lodging and food and beverage sales. Total sales tax collected in the village increased from $981,839 to $1.08 million, which translates into $27 million in taxable sales for the month.

Sales tax receipts from Vail’s retail businesses are up 15.9 percent while food and beverage sales were up 9.5 percent and lodging, 3.9 percent.

Lodging in Lionshead – as it has since the re-opening of the remodeled Marriott Mountain Resort last summer – showed the largest increase, 26.2 percent, followed by food and beverage sales at 14.1 percent and retail sales at 9.6 percent.

Total sales tax in Lionshead increased from $401,625 to $473,873, indicating there was $11.8 million in total taxable activity in town.

Sales activity outside of the core of Vail, in Cascade Village, East Vail, Sandstone Creek and West Vail showed a mild 2.5 percent increase. Retail sales actually decreased 8.6 percent in this area but lodging was up 7.8 percent and food and beverage sales jumped 18.9 percent.

Total sales tax received increased from $430,801 to $441,474, which translated into $11.03 million in taxable sales.

Townwide, the various retail categories had mixed, and in some cases, spectacular success. In the largest category, sales of sports equipment increased 13.3 percent to $317,891. Food sales actually declined 9.9 percent from $142,403 to $128,259 and gift sales declined 2.6 percent to $14,884. Liquor sales were up 13.6 percent to $32,286 and apparel sales were up 5 percent to $85,152.

Sales in the smallest retail category, art galleries, soared 151 percent, but in real tax dollars increased from $6,250 to 15,693.

Cliff Thompson can be contacted via e-mail at or by calling 949-0555 ext. 450.

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