SWEETWATER COUNTY — Local residents voted to increase the Sweetwater County lodging tax from 2% to 3% in November 2014. State statute requires that the lodging tax be spent on destination marketing efforts. Since the election, the Sweetwater County Lodging Tax Board, comprised of 11 appointed volunteers primarily from the hospitality industry, has been working diligently to create a plan to best utilize the additional funds.
For the past two fiscal years, the lodging tax collected approximately $625,000. With the increase to 3%, it is expected to collect approximately $937,500. This increase will be spread across five budget line items to include an expanded, comprehensive, out-of-county marketing plan, over 30 local event grants providing advertising and sponsorship dollars, board projects in line with the board mission, Rock Springs and Green River Chamber of Commerce contracts for visitor services, and a marketing block grant to the Sweetwater Events Complex. “The board evaluated the effectiveness of each marketing effort to determine ways to continue to increase the ROI by generating visitation to the area,” said Jenissa Bartlett, Executive Director.
A notable change to the administration of the lodging tax concerns event grants. Historically the maximum amount awarded for each event grant was $4,000. That amount will be increased to $6,000 beginning September 2015. Any event that generates out of county attendance qualifies for event grant funding and grant hearings are held quarterly. Application and guideline information can be found at www.tourwyoming.com.
Additionally the board will be partnering with the chambers and cities to provide a mobile information center at local signature events throughout the year to extend visitor stays in the area. The largest portion of the lodging tax budget is allocated to a regional marketing plan. The board has implemented a measureable, comprehensive, out-of-county marketing plan for the past seven years. The additional lodging tax funds will allow for expanded digital, print, billboard and television advertising in key markets throughout the region to generate visitation.
“The board appreciates that local residents see the benefit of the lodging tax and looks forward to working on behalf of Sweetwater County residents to champion the power of tourism for our local economy,” said Greg Bailey, Board Chair.