ELKO — Revenue from room taxes from hotels and motels in Elko is up 7.9 percent so far from July 1 through November and was up 6 percent in the prior fiscal year, signaling that Elko is bringing in business travelers and tourists in good numbers.
Revenue from room taxes totaled a little less than $3.61 million in the 2016-2017 fiscal year ending June 30, compared with more than $3.42 million the prior fiscal year, according to figures provided by Jonnye Jund, Elko’s administrative services director.
From July 1 through November of this year the total is $1.79 million, compared with roughly $1.68 million in the same period last year. December figures weren’t available yet.
Elko Convention and Visitors Authority’s executive director, Don Newman, said individual motels and hotels may say they aren’t doing better, but that is because more rooms have been added with the opening of two new hotels.
“The hotels will tell you they are not as full and doing as well, but the Hampton and Ledgestone are added to the mix so that roughly 160 rooms waters down the other properties. The pie is the same, but everybody’s slice has gotten a little bit smaller,” Newman said.
The Home2 Suites by Hilton under construction at 2572 E. Jennings Way will add another 107 rooms, and the Holiday Inn at 2542 Ruby Vista Drive will add 98 rooms, according to Corina Tibbitts, technical assistant for Elko’s building department.
The Hampton Inn at 674 Cimarron Way has 80 rooms, and the Ledgestone at 2585 E. Jennings Way has 84 rooms, Tibbitts said in an email.
Newman said with construction of the Holiday Inn, the older Holiday Inn Express on Idaho Street will be rebranding as a Sheraton 4 Points franchise. Other name changes include the Oak Tree Inn, as a Baymont Inn and Suites, and Stockmen’s as Stockmen’s Casino and Ramada Hotel.
All total there are 35 properties in Elko paying room taxes, and there are 2,385 rooms in Elko.
“There is a lot of competition to divide the pie, but fortunately all the properties are in good shape,” Newman said.
Although room tax revenue is up, collections were higher in the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 fiscal years.
“Certainly, the strongest was when gold was at $1,800 an ounce. Workers filled the hotels and RV parks were full,” Newman said.
The highest London afternoon fix price for gold was $1,895 an ounce in September 2011. The gold price has been picking up again and companies have reported increased exploration. The gold price on Jan. 11 was in the $1,320-an-ounce range.
The largest gold-producing mines in the United States are in Nevada, and Elko is a hub for housing for miners and vendors doing business with the mines and exploration companies.
Slicing the pie
Total revenue from room taxes was a little more than $3.34 million in the 2011-2012 fiscal year and a little more than $3.55 million In the 2012-2013 fiscal year, and those totals were before room taxes rose to 14 percent in July 2015 from 12 percent. However, entities such as ECVA aren’t receiving a larger share with the hike.
“Everybody still participates in 11 percent,” Newman said, because of dedicated funds for the airport and the city’s sports complex and golf course. The 1 percent for the sports complex and golf course comes out of the city’s share.
ECVA draws two chunks of the 14 percent-pie, with the general ECVA fund receiving 2.375 percent and the marketing fund receiving 1.75 percent. The City of Elko receives 6 percent, the state, 0.375 percent, and the Elko County Recreation Board, 0.625 percent. The Elko County Fair Board receives 0.5 percent, the Western Folklife Center, 0.25 percent, and the Snowbowl Foundation, 0.125 percent.
The airport receives the 2 percent share until payments for debt service are covered. Any excess for the year goes to the ECVA facility fund, Jund’s allocations list states.
In room-tax related action, the Elko City Council voted at its Jan. 9 meeting to fine-tune proposed changes to the city’s codes covering room taxes, and the changes will come back to the council for first reading.
City Clerk Shannell Owen said most of the proposed changes are “housekeeping changes,” but she said there also is new wording for the 28-day room-tax exemption for people saying that long or longer in a motel or hotel.
“We need to clarify the code to be consistent,” she said.
“We’re happy to work with city staff” before the ordinance is introduced, ECVA Chairman Matt McCarty told the council. “Clarifying the 28-day exemption is essential.”
Another proposed change is to make room taxes due on the 10th of the month, and the penalty to begin on the 11th of the month instead of the 15th.
ECVA received nearly $1.06 million in revenues from room taxes in the 2016-2017 fiscal year, with $609,227 for the general fund and $448,895 for the marketing fund, compared with a little more than $1.01 million in the 2015-2016 fiscal year, with $582,254 for the general fund and $429,030 for the marketing fund.
The highest revenue ECVA received from room taxes was in the 2012-2013 fiscal year, a little more than $1.22 million, when gold prices were higher. ECVA received nearly $1.12 million in 2011-2012 and nearly $1.15 million in the 2013-2014 fiscal year.
One of ECVA’s tasks is to market the Elko area to fill hotels, motels and campgrounds so the authority has marketing campaigns focusing on the major events in Elko, such as the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering Jan. 29-Feb. 4, the Elko Mining Expo, the National Basque Festival, the Elko County Fair, the Silver State Stampede, car shows and the Ruby Mountain Balloon Festival.
“Events are doing well. Cowboy Poetry ticket sales are up, car show participation was up,” Newman said, adding that Cowboy Poetry and the Elko Mining Expo in June are the biggest events, and the county fair does well.
ECVA also is promoting horse racing at fair time, especially in Boise now that Boise hasn’t had racing in a couple of years, he said.
“What ECVA is all about is supporting events, as well as the community,” Newman said.
The marketing includes billboards up and down Interstate 80, radio advertising of events and recreational opportunities, advertising in trade and travel magazines, and attending trade shows to promote Elko for tourism and conventions.
ECVA also gives out publications at the shows, as well as locally, to promote tourism and events.
“The new Visitors Guide is just out. It’s beautiful. I feel it is an award-winning publication,” Newman said.
ECVA’s conference center “gives us the ability to host up to 1,000 people at a time,” Newman said. “The new building also allows us to bring in new conferences.”
ECVA also works with the Nevada Commission on Tourism to promote the Elko area, especially Lamoille Canyon and the Ruby Mountains.
Still, business travelers make up the bulk of those staying at Elko motels and hotels, although Elko is seeing more tour buses stopping at least for the night, Newman said.