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Boulder, Colorado Accommodation Taxes Down 14.6% for 11 months
 2009 Compared to Same Period a Year Ago

By Alicia Wallace and Erica Meltzer, Daily Camera, Boulder, Colo.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

February 8, 2010 --The city of Boulder's hotel occupancy rates dropped 4 percent to close out 2009, according to a year-end report from the Boulder Convention and Visitors Bureau.

While Boulder's occupancy rates fared better than the Denver metro area and the nation, which had respective declines of 5.2 percent and 8.7 percent, the drop in tourist traffic had a negative ripple effect on more than just the hotels in Boulder, officials said in the report.

Four percent fewer hotel stays equals:

-- 6.3 meals per day not eaten in local restaurants.

-- Fewer people shopping in local boutiques and galleries.

"Therefore, the impact of fewer visitors is (more) far reaching than the occupancy reflects," officials said in the report.

Through November, Boulder collected just over $2.9 million in accommodation taxes, a 14.6 percent drop from the same period a year ago. Tax collections from restaurants during that same 11-month period were down 5.6 percent.

The accommodation tax collections' decline has narrowed from the Convention and Visitors Bureau's third-quarter report, which noted an August 2009 year-to-date drop of 17 percent.

"We thought, it's gonna get worse. ... Some thought it could go to 30 (percent)," said Mary Ann Mahoney, executive director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The full-year 2009 accommodation tax collections are expected to be available this month when the city's finance department releases the December sales tax report.

There are "whispers of optimism" for better-than-expected December figures and for improvement for 2010, Mahoney said.

"These are the realities of the economic times," she said. "A lot of it is confidence in the economy."

Dan King, owner of the Boulder Outlook Hotel and Suites, called 2009 "a terrible year," but said the fourth quarter was better than the fourth quarter in 2008 and that business was up last month by about 10 percent from January 2009.

"The last three months of last year really (have) been the first time we could assess ourselves in this new economy," said King, whose hotel at 800 28th St. mostly caters to University of Colorado visitors and tourists. "It feels like we've hit bottom, and things are picking up a little."

Beverly Silva, director of sales and marketing at the historic Hotel Boulderado in downtown Boulder, said 2009 was a difficult year that included the cancellations of several large conferences that already had been booked and confirmed.

In the last few weeks of 2009 and the first weeks of 2010, business has picked up, though, she said.

"We definitely have seen better years, but we're looking forward to the future," Silva said. "It does seem to be improving."

In particular, the hotel has seen in an uptick in business travel that seems to be indirectly related to the stimulus. Firms with contracts related to clean technology and environmental research have booked rooms for business travelers and even meetings and conferences.

"You hear a lot of bad things about the stimulus, but it does seem to be helping," Silva said.

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Copyright (c) 2010, Daily Camera, Boulder, Colo.

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