From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 8, Number 34 - November 13, 2008
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Lodging tax failure is death knell for Tourism Board

by Tiffany Turner

The Joint Tourism Board (JTB) in Sublette County supported many projects after the lodging tax was voted in eight years ago, including funds for the new Visitor’s Center and travel and tourism promotion for county and towns’ events.

This support could be a thing of the past, however, with the lodging tax’s failure on this year’s ballot.

The lodging tax was an additional 3 percent added to the sales prices paid for countywide lodging or campground spaces where individuals stayed for less than 30 days. Ninety-percent of the lodging tax revenue is designated for travel and tourism promotion. The remaining 10 percent is directed to the county and the municipalities of Pinedale, Big Piney and Marbleton for General Fund purposes. In the past eight years, this tax has brought the JTB at least $933,000 to spend on the Visitors Center and promotions to draw out-of-town visitors to local events.

With the failure of this tax, the JTB will no longer have this revenue – the only funding for the organization and the reason for its creation.

“The Sublette County Joint Tourism Promotion Board’s sole purpose is to distribute the lodging tax,” said JTB Marketing Director Mindi Crabb. “This means that the Board will be disbanded once all monies are in and appropriately spent. There are no other funding sources.”

According to Crabb, the board is working with county and state treasurers to determine when the actual disbandment will take place and will know in several weeks when the county should expect the JTB’s final collapse.

“Since this doesn’t happen often there hasn’t been much precedent,” she added.

What does this mean for the things in Sublette County that JTB supported?

“This will have an impact on our ability to promote tourism and recreation in Sublette County, two traditional industries in our beautiful county that keep our economy diverse,” said JTB President Mary Thompson. “As you know, advertising is very expensive, and the income from the lodging tax enabled tourism in our county to be promoted in a way that was not such a burden on individual businesses.”

Without the JTB, advertising will be limited to what event hosts, businesses and organizations can afford themselves. The broad statewide and countrywide advertising for the county’s local attractions and events as a whole will no longer exist unless it is something another organization or sponsor deems it appropriate as a project. Promotion will still be available at the state level.

As for the Visitor’s Center and Sublette County Chamber of Commerce, both will continue to operate although future funding is now uncertain. The facility was expanded from its original plans with the understanding the JTB would be responsible for funding much of the building tit would share with the Chamber of Commerce

“The Chamber of Commerce will continue to support the stability of existing businesses and industries and encourage county wide economic development,” said Chamber President Forest Wakefield. “The failure of the lodging tax will be the loss of one tool in the toolbox to accomplish this aim; however it will not be in any way the end of the Sublette County Chamber of Commerce.”

JTB funding for the Visitors Center and event promotion the Chamber received in the past will no longer exist and Wakefield said the Chamber will continue to support its events through other funding sources, but is unsure how the Visitors Center will be funded after the end of this year.

“The Sublette County Chamber of Commerce will continue to operate the Visitors Center through the end of the year through a funding agreement with the Sublette County Joint Tourism Board,” Wakefield said. “As far as funding for operations of the Visitor Center in 2009, the Tourism Board had agreed to take over the responsibility of both funding and operations; however with the failure of the lodging tax this appears to be unlikely.”

Both parties have openly stated their disappointment of the lodging tax’s failure and Thompson said she hopes to garner support for it for the next election, to get the tax passed once more due to its benefits to the county.

“The lodging tax, which is widely used in communities everywhere, is a great way for us to promote tourism through tourism, if you will,” Thompson said. “I will be working hard with many others who supported the lodging tax to see if we can’t get broader support for this tax that we don’t really pay, that benefits our community so much.”

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