Rising lodging tax collections portend “good year” for tourism

Lodging tax collections for the City of Grand Junction follow the trend reflected in sales tax collections for the city and Mesa County — they’re rising compared to collections for the same months last year.

“Things are better than they were last year,” said Barbara Bowman, director of sales and division manager for the Grand Junction Visitor & Convention Bureau. “We’re confident we’ll have a good year, although not a gangbuster one.”

According to the report for January, lodging tax collections totaled $60,153, 2.3 percent higher than the report for January 2010. The report reflects hotel business for December, since reports lag a month behind.

Bowman’s prediction dovetails with private-sector projections for slow, yet steady growth for the remainder of 2011. In addition to increased consumer spending and a lower unemployment rate nationwide in February, the tourism industry anticipates an increase in recreational travel this year.

“We’ll be going up a bit — 3 (percent) to 5 percent,” said Bowman, who recently attended an international trade show.

The projected increase comes as the Grand Valley enjoys more publicity overseas. A photo of Independence Monument displayed on the cover of the new Grand Junction visitor guide is featured in one of the top five tourism brochures in Germany, Bowman said.

The VCB has been nominated for best destination marketing organization, an honor awarded by Colorado Meetings and Events magazine for 2010. The Grand Junction VCB won the honor from magazine editors in 2009, but this year’s nomination comes from readers who deal with staff members from visitor bureaus in Colorado.

Bowman said it’s unusual for a bureau from Western Colorado to be in the running with organizations from Denver and Colorado Springs.

VCB brochures have also been a hot item. The local bureau sends one Grand Junction Visitor Guide to each AAA outlet. The automobile association asked for an additional 1,800 brochures this year, Bowman said.

In addition to publicity for the Grand Valley, the area is adding another tourist attraction in the spring.

An automobile race from New York to Paris will include stops at the Gateway Canyons Resort as well as the Colorado National Monument near Grand Junction. Bowman said 18 cars in the race will be displayed at the Saddlehorn Campground on the monument from 1 to 3 p.m. April 23.

The World Race 2011 will commemorate the Great Auto Race of 1908 from New York to Paris. The 2011 race is set to start April 14 in Times Square and conclude July 11 at the Eiffel Tower in Paris. From Grand Junction, the race will proceed west to San Francisco, them embark by sea for a second leg through Asia, Russia and Europe. The race will cover 23,000 miles through 12 counties.

Meanwhile, efforts are underway to change the Colorado National Monument to a national park. Such a designation could lure even more tourists to the canyons and spires southwest of Grand Junction.

The tourism industry also gets help from community efforts to bring sports events to the Grand Valley. The new swimming facility at Mesa State College will host a regional swimming meet in 2012.

A regional youth soccer tournament returns in May. And there’s the Junior College Baseball World Series in late May and June as well as the Country Jam music festival in late June.