Life / Travel

Pre-eclipse sales tax revenues slip in Jackson

JACKSON, Wyo. — Summer business is down in Jackson Hole — but town promoters are hoping that visitors for the solar eclipse will reverse the summer slowdown.

Jackson's lodging occupancy was down an average of 5 per cent from last year this May, June and July, The Jackson Hole News & Guide reported (http://bit.ly/2vPc0MM ).

The shortfall should be made up during the week of Aug. 21, when upward of 100,000 people are expected to descend upon Jackson to view the total solar eclipse.

"August numbers are going to be skewed enormously," said Anna Olson, the new president and CEO of the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce.

Sales tax income returned to Teton County from the state was down 22 per cent for the month of June, which comes out to more than $1 million, according to the Wyoming Department of Revenue. Year-to-date, sales tax collections are down just 0.28 per cent from last year.

The decline comes despite the fact that lodging tax income for May through July 2017 was up 9 per cent compared with the same period in 2016 and up 22 per cent compared with 2015.

Unemployment has also declined 0.3 per cent as the national economy continues to thrive.

Part of the discrepancy may be explained by a 16 per cent increase in average daily rate for a room — from $343 to $393 — collecting a larger portion of taxes despite hosting fewer people.

Olson noted that the increase in average daily rate does not seem to have scared people away or caused them to spend less on goods and services. This year has simply marked a return to normal following the busiest summer in Jackson history in 2016.

But the eclipse could bring this year close to 2016 levels.

From Aug. 19 to Aug. 26, eclipse week, occupancy in Jackson is up an average of 22 per cent compared with last summer. For the nights of Aug. 20 and 21, occupancy is at 97 and 96 per cent . That week alone could more than make up the $1 million lost in June.

"I think from a business aspect people will be watching this summer with interest," Olson said. "We'll see how the fall plays out and continue to monitor the situation."

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