Governor: State’s confirmed COVID-19 cases increase to 28
The city of Roswell had recorded a decrease in lodgers’ tax prior to the confirmation of coronavirus in New Mexico and is suspending some tourism advertising. That decision was made prior to the governor’s order Wednesday that lodging facilities operate at 50% occupancy, a city official said.
In a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New Mexico had increased by five to 28 and introduced new orders, going into effect Thursday, restricting restaurants, bars, breweries and other eateries to take-out and delivery service; closing indoor shopping malls, theaters, recreational facilities, health clubs, spas, theaters and flea markets; and limiting hotels, motels and other lodging facilities to 50% occupancy. The orders are in effect until at least April 10.
The Roswell Mall, 4501 N. Main St., which had previously decreased its operating hours, posted the orders on its Facebook page Wednesday afternoon. Management could not be reached by press time.
The governor’s order does exempt restaurants in shopping malls from closing if they have an exterior entrance. Phone calls to the mall’s eateries confirmed Ooy’s Thai and Chinese Restaurant will be closed, but La Salsa Mexican Restaurant will be open for takeout and delivery.
The February lodger’s tax report shows the city of Roswell had been on track in fiscal year 2020 with the prior year in collections on the 1,640 rooms available, but a decrease started in December. The July through November year-to-date lodgers’ tax collections were only $159 behind fiscal 2019.
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But starting in December, collections decreased sharply — a total of $5,255 for December through February.
The lodgers’ tax is a 5% tax on each room that is occupied. The use of the funds is restricted to advertising, promotion and publicizing tourist-related attractions and events, or operations of facilities that attract tourists, such as the Roswell Convention & Civic Center or the Visitors Center, Juanita Jennings, public affairs director for the city of Roswell, said.
The city has presumed the oil and gas industry has at least in part been a reason for the decline. The tax is collected on up to 30 days occupancy by the same person or company.
“When you start seeing your occupancy level remaining the same, but collections start going down, that tells us that people are staying in our hotels for a long-term stay,” Jennings said.
With the nation under advisement to practice “social distancing” and staying at home to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, the city on Wednesday suspended some of its tourism marketing.
“We want to be financially responsive to that and don’t want to waste money putting ads out if we’re not going to have things available to them and open,” Jennings said.
She said the city will continue to evaluate its tourism strategy and budget as the coronavirus threat plays out.
“We are looking at postponing some marketing efforts that we had in other states like in Colorado, Arizona and Texas,” she said.
The Roswell Visitors Center, which operates on lodgers’ tax funds, was closed Monday and its staff reassigned to other jobs within the city, Jennings said.
At least one motel reached for comment by the Daily Record has already been feeling the effects of the coronavirus.
Karen Arnold, general manager at Hampton Inn and Suites, 3607 N. Main St., said as of Wednesday afternoon, the hotel would be able to comply with the governor’s order due to cancellations.
“As of right now, I have lost four tour groups and have had large cancellations, so therefore I am below the threshold,” she said.
Arnold said she expected she would have to lay off staff, but didn’t know Wednesday how many.
“This is a fluctuating environment, and we react and we follow the guidelines that are required,” she said, adding the hotel’s owner, Hilton, has issued its own requirements for dealing with the coronavirus.
Those measures include providing a sanitation station, extra cleaning, cleaning elevators every hour, removing breakfast tables and not imposing penalties for cancellations, she said.
City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To keep up with local coverage of the coronavirus, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/covid-19-situation/.