Local Marketing District invests lodging tax money in Moffat County’s future | CraigDailyPress.com

Local Marketing District invests lodging tax money in Moffat County’s future

Lodging tax has generated more than $2M since 2016

Hot air balloons light up the night Aug. 6 during the 2022 Moffat County Hot Air Balloon Festival at Loudy Simpson Park in Craig. The balloon festival is one of a handful of local events that draws some support from the Moffat County Local Marketing District.
Eli Pace/Craig Press

The Moffat County Local Marketing District was established after county voters passed measure 5A in 2015, creating a 4% tax on the nightly purchase price for local lodging. Since then, the tax has generated more than $2 million.

Justin Kawcak, a local marketing district board member, said the purpose of the funding is twofold. The tax money is generated by visitors who come to the community and spend money on lodging and hospitality. As a result, the revenue is used to support the community and make it more attractive as a destination. 

“We are looking at how we can bring tourism to Moffat County, and how we can bring additional people, businesses and jobs to the community, in addition to tourism,” Kawcak said.

The local marketing district works to promote Moffat County as a recreation and tourism destination, as well as casting the city as a “business friendly location for people who enjoy a varied outdoor lifestyle with a Western atmosphere.” 

Tom Kleinschnitz, director of Visit Moffat County, said he believes that when voters passed 5A, they wanted to see an economic driver that would help move Craig into the future, especially as the energy industry moves away from fossil fuels. 

Tom Kleinschnitz as the director of the Moffat County Tourism Association.
Craig Press file photo

Kleinschnitz, who started his career as “a river kid” with a rafting company in Craig, said tourism is an important resource if it’s done responsibly. Visit Moffat County collaborates often with the local marketing district in order to leverage more funding resources and help get larger projects off the ground. 

The role of the marketing district board is to review project proposals and decide where to invest the lodging tax revenue in the community. Supporting local events is a portion of what the funds are used for, in addition to other projects that are requested by community partners. 

According to Kawcak, the lodging tax has collected more than $2 million in revenue for the marketing district from January 2016 to September 2022. Kawcak said the reporting for collections is always a few months behind because hotels have two months to submit the tax. 

Even during pandemic travel restrictions, the lodging tax has consistently collected over $250,000 each year, which could be attributed to construction and energy workers utilizing rooms for temporary housing and the high demand of lodging in the region.

“Our average daily rates seem high, but when you look across the state rates have really blossomed,” Kleinschnitz said, adding that the local marketing district knocked it out of the park during hunting season this year and anticipates higher-than-usual revenue for the fourth quarter in 2022.  

It’s estimated the lodging tax will collect $275,000 in 2023. By then, there will be $658,743 in reserves, which would allow the district up to $658,743 in spending if district officials want to dip into reserves. 

In 2023, the district plans to invest more than $100,000 in events with $70,000 dedicated to existing events, $30,000 for new events and $16,000 to support the Moffat County High School rodeo finals, which was planned for in a multi-year contract. 

New events that came to the area this year were the Yampa River Roots Reggae Festival and the Dinosaur Stoneage Stampede, both of which aim to become annual staples on the events calendar.

A group of children wait for the train ride departure at Cady Park on Sept. 9, 2022 during the Dinosaur Stone Age Stampede.
Amber Delay/Craig Press

The fund also supports the long established events in the community including Grand Old West Days, Whittle the Wood and the Moffat County Hot Air Balloon Festival, among others. 

Kawcak said the district also uses $15,000 per year for operational expenses, which include publicity, data tracking and administrative costs. There is an additional $60,000 for projects with strategic partners. 

The marketing district has invested in several large projects in the community to help spur development and tourism including the state welcome center in Dinosaur, the Yampa River Corridor project and the 775 Yampa Building and Moffat County Visitors Center. 

Kawcak said the fund has also invested in business growth by providing some money for the Bad Alibi Distillery, which is expected to create new jobs in Craig.

Some of the projects the fund has supported were for feasibility studies and exploration for potential projects, such as the Yampa Valley Adventure Center and the Northwest Colorado Recreation Foundation, which explored creating a special recreation district.

“No one project is going to be the thing that steers Craig forward,” Kawcak said. “It will take a lot of different projects, so we’re hoping to help make those successful.” 

When voters approved the lodging tax to support the local marketing district, it came with a 10-year term so the tax is scheduled to sunset in 2025 unless voters decide it’s something the community wants to continue.

Visit Moffat County awarded grant

Visit Moffat County announced on Wednesday, Dec. 7, that it has been awarded a Marketing Matching Grant for a collaborative project to help promote attractions across Moffat County. 

The grant will fund print and digital brochures for the town of Dinosaur, Browns Park and Maybell, as well as a Yampa River Access map that covers both Routt and Moffat counties, and the Moffat County Visitor’s Guide. 

Collaborative efforts for the creation of these projects will come from Moffat County communities, as well as from the Craig Chamber, the Steamboat Chamber, Friends of the Yampa, management agencies including the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Colorado Parks & Wildlife.  

“Visit Moffat County was looking to revamp and add to our print and digital assets and to be more visually appealing and user-friendly,” said Tom Kleinschnitz, director of Visit Moffat County. “We thought this would be a wonderful opportunity to increase our cooperative efforts between ourselves and our tourism partners. We are looking to complete all five projects in 2023.”

The Colorado Tourism Office matched Visit Moffat County’s $15,000 to bring the total funding available for these efforts to $30,000. 

“Our region is loaded with opportunities, these projects will make important information available to visitors and residents alike,” said John Husband, chairman of Visit Moffat County’s Board of Directors. 

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