July brings big bump in Duluth tourism taxes
To say that July was a good tourism month for Duluth is an understatement. Duluth had a great tourist month, judging by the tourism taxes collected for July that were up nearly 20 percent over a year ago, city data show. "It's the biggest increas...
To say that July was a good tourism month for Duluth is an understatement.
Duluth had a great tourist month, judging by the tourism taxes collected for July that were up nearly 20 percent over a year ago, city data show.
"It's the biggest increase we've seen in a long time," City Treasurer Brian Hansen said.
After a dismal 2009, consistently higher 2010 numbers have not only returned Duluth to highs seen in 2008 but bested them, Hansen said.
Tax collections so far this year are up nearly 7 percent over the same period in 2009, from about $4 million to $4.3 million. The total for July is $943,000, up from $787,600 in July 2009.
Hotel/motel taxes showed the biggest jump, a 25 percent increase over 2009, while food/beverage tax collections increased nearly 14 percent.
Terry Mattson, president of Visit Duluth, said he wasn't surprised.
"They're tracking what we were hearing," he said. "We've been having a good year. Our Tall Ships definitely created Duluth's high-water mark. We had those expectations going in, and we met them."
But don't get too excited by the numbers; they're inflated. A large lodging establishment amended 18 months of improperly filed returns, and some delinquent food/beverage taxes came in for the July report, Hansen said. Had those dollars not come in, the increase in lodging taxes would have been about 13 percent instead of 25 percent and the food/beverage taxes would have been up 9.5 percent instead of 14 percent.
But 13 percent and 9.5 percent are still significant increases, Hansen said. An improved economy, more dining options and five weekends in July compared to 4.5 weekends the previous July also contributed to the boost.
Mattson said any double-digit growth during what is already the peak of Duluth's tourist season is unprecedented.
"The growth is nothing short of phenomenal in a single month," he said. "When hotels are at their peak, this is driven by rates and by numbers of visitors."
ZMC Hotels' Inn on Lake Superior, Edgewater Resort and Water Park and Edgewater Express in Duluth felt the impact, company officials said.
July and August are always the best months, said Bill DeSanto, ZMC's chief operating officer. But this year's July revenue was up 4 percent over July 2009, he said, and total summer revenue is up 6 percent over a year ago, with occupancy averaging about 85 percent and rates holding steady.
Hansen said the spike from the Tall Ships festival will be seen when August numbers are available, because the ships arrived on July 29 and most stayed until Aug. 3 or later.