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City’s GRT collections up, hotel occupancy down

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The city’s collections of gross receipts taxes, lodgers’ tax and convention center fees have shown improvement from a year ago but the percentage of motel room occupancy has yet to recover to pre-pandemic levels, according to information from the city’s Public Affairs Department.

December’s GRT collection — which reflects economic activity in October — was $3.3 million, a 20.6% increase from December 2020’s $2.7 million, according to the GRT report included in the agenda packet for the Roswell City Council’s Finance Committee. Last month’s collection was also ahead of previous years’ collections, by 5.3% over December 2019 and 22.9% over December 2018.

The city’s GRT collections for the first half of the 2022 fiscal year — July to December — are also ahead of its budgeted projections by $1.7 million. 

While the lodgers’ tax and convention center fee collections in October 2021 were better than in October 2020, they are below the amounts collected in the same month in the two prior years. Both are based on hotel occupancies, which are overall still lower than rates prior to the pandemic.

While hotel occupancy reported in July and August was close to the 2019 and 2018 figures, it has since dipped below the September and October rates in 2019 and 2018. The reports reflect the prior month’s hotel activity.

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The August report — which would include occupancy during the UFO Festival — was 62.6%, the highest the city had seen since prior to the pandemic and at about the same level for that month in 2019 and slightly higher than 2018.

However, September’s occupancy report decreased to 49.1% and October’s to 45.2%. Two years ago those months saw 54.9% and 53% occupancy.

The lodgers’ tax and convention center fees saw corresponding drops from the August report to October. The city collected $147,203 in lodgers’ tax in August, $107,274 in September and $95,448 in October.

Collections of convention center fees were $75,130 in August, $59,297 in September and $55,627 in October.

The October collections are improved from a year ago — the lodgers’ tax is up 11.8% and the convention center fee 14.1% — but they don’t fare as well in comparison to previous years.

The lodgers’ tax is down 12.2% from 2019 and 8.9% from 2018 October collections. The convention center fee is down 2.2% from 2019 and 1.7% from 2018.

The lodgers’ tax is a 5% tax on each room occupied, while the convention center fee is $2.50 per occupied hotel room per day.

City officials have said a 75% occupancy rate provides enough lodgers’ tax to fund the operations of the convention center. The tax also funds the Roswell Visitors Center and the city’s tourism marketing.

Despite the low occupancy rates, the city is set to open the convention center this month for events. The city expects it will use $2 million of its $11.7 million allocation from the federal American Rescue Plan to assist tourism-related expenses including operations of the convention center.

The visitors center has seen an increase in traffic in 2021, surpassing its 2019 pre-pandemic totals by the end of June. A report from the Public Affairs Department showed a total of 11,616 visitors from January to June 2021, compared to 10,826 in that time period in 2019. In 2020, during the pandemic, the visitors center had seen only 803 people by June.

A final tally of December’s visitors to the center was not available in the report, which was also included in the agenda for Thursday’s Finance Committee meeting, but 25,753 people had been through the visitor’s center in 2021 through November, compared to 22,992 in 2019.

In November, 1,738 of those who signed in to the Visitor’s Center were from states other than New Mexico. In 2019, 730 November visitors said they were from out of state. New Mexicans from outside Roswell numbered 118 in November 2021 and 29 in November 2019. There were fewer international visitors in November than before the pandemic — only 31 in 2021 compared to 122 in 2019.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.

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