Lodging tax increase headed to ballot

Jamie Lummis, chairman of the Greater Grand Junction Area Sports Commission board of directors, was among those who spoke at a news conference staged at the Grand Junction Regional Airport to lend support to a ballot measure to increase the Grand Junction lodging tax. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)
Jamie Lummis, chairman of the Greater Grand Junction Area Sports Commission board of directors, was among those who spoke at a news conference staged at the Grand Junction Regional Airport to lend support to a ballot measure to increase the Grand Junction lodging tax. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Representatives from four groups have voiced their support for a proposed increase in the Grand Junction lodging tax and in turn funding to promote tourism, air service and sports events.

A committee comprised of members from the same groups also has been formed to campaign for the lodging tax measure that will appear on the November ballot.

“It’s our intent to make sure every voter is informed on this issue,” said Diane Schwenke, president and chief executive officer of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce.

Schwenke was among those who spoke at a news conference conducted the day after the Grand Junction City Council voted 6-0 to pass a resolution to seek approval from city voters to double the lodging tax from 3 percent to 6 percent.

Revenue from the tax, imposed on hotel and motel stays, funds Visit Grand Junction, the city tourism and destination marketing organization.

Revenue from the proposed increase would be split three ways: 1.25 percent to Visit Grand Junction, 1 percent to the Grand Junction Regional Air Service Alliance to support additional direct flights to and from the Grand Junction Regional Airport and 0.75 percent to the Greater Grand Junction Sports Commission to promote tourism related to sports activities and events in the Grand Valley.

Lodging tax collections totaled nearly $1.5 million in 2017. It’s estimated a 3 percent increase in lodging tax would generate an additional $1.5 million in revenue annually — $$625,000 for Visit Grand Junction, $500,000 for the Grand Junction Regional Air Service Alliance and $375,000 for the Greater Grand Junction Sports Authority.

Schwenke said lodging taxes could be considered “the tax you don’t pay” because visitors pay the tax even as residents enjoy the benefits from a stronger economy and more amenities and events.

Julie Shafer, a member of the Visit Grand Junction board of directors, said tourism constitutes an important economic driver for the Grand Valley that also accounts for about 30 percent of sales tax revenues.

According to the latest results of an analysis of the economic effects of the travel industry in Mesa County, more than 5,500 jobs and nearly $140 million in annual wages can be attributed to tourism.

Robin Brown, executive director of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership, said tourism helps promote economic development and GJEP was in “full support” of the lodging tax increase.

Clay Tufly, chairman of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors, said the board supports the tax increase because tourism helps solidify the Grand Valley’s traditional position as a regional retail hub and brings in dollars from outside the area. “This is a way for us, with this tax, to gain those dollars.”

Jamie Lummis, chairman of the Greater Grand Junction Sports Commission board of directors, said Grand Junction offers what could be considered the gold standard of sports tourism promotions in efforts associated with the Alpine Bank Junior College Baseball World Series. But there are other sports events and sports venues that also could be promoted more effectively with additional funding.

Schwenke said the Tax You Don’t Pay issues committee will include members of the chamber as well as the Visit Grand Junction, Grand Junction Regional Air Service Alliance and Greater Grand Junction Sports Commission boards.