Tourism indicators reflect recovery

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Increased lodging tax collections and other indicators reflect recovery in Grand Valley tourism, officials say.

“We really feel we’re turning the corner — finally,” said Barb Bowman, director of sales and division manager of the Grand Junction Visitor & Convention Bureau.

While Grand Junction hotel and motel occupancy rates increased in 2014, they remained among the lowest in Colorado.

But the outlook for the coming year remains upbeat, Bowman said, as higher levels of discretionary income tend to promote more travel and a series of events likely will attract more visitors to the Grand Valley. “We really feel bullish about 2015.”

According to the VCB report for December, $72,413 in lodging taxes were collected. That’s a 9.7 percent jump over the $65,981 reported for December of 2013.

With year-over-year gains in 10 out of 12 months, total lodging tax collections reported for 2014 climbed to more than $1.25 million. That’s an increase of 4.3 percent over 2013.

Since lodging tax reports lag a month behind, December reports reflect hotel and motel stays in November. Year-end reports reflect business between December and November.

Several other statistics the VCB tracks also increased in 2014, including unique visits to its Web site at wwwvisitgrandjunction.com. At nearly 418,000, visits to the Web site were up 26 percent.

Bowman considers Web site visits a reflection of intent and a leading indicator of subsequent travel.

In addition, though, the VCB Web site now can handle hotel and motel bookings, Bowman said. The Web site also has been designed to accommodate the increasing use of smart phones and other mobile devices, she said.

Requests for visitor guides increased 55 percent to 8,526 in 2014. The guides have been redesigned for 2015, Bowman said.

At the same time, though, the number of visitors counted at the Grand Junction Visitor Center fell nearly 8 percent in 2014 to 14,284. The total reflected declines in in-state, out-of-state and international visitors.

Bowman said the occupancy rate for Grand Junction hotels and motels increased more than two points to 58.9 percent in 2014. But the average daily room slipped 72 cents to $79.63. That means hotels and motels are still struggling to raise occupancy levels and room rates, she said.

The outlook for 2015 appears optimistic, though, as a national trend in increased travel portends local increases, Bowman said. International travel also is expected to increase, she said.

While conventions and meetings bolstered Grand Valley tourism business in 2014, events likely will draw more visitors in 2015, she said.

Some of the major attractions will include the Epic Rides mountain bike event in May, Country Jam music festival in June and air show and Tour of the Moon bicycle ride both in October.