Breaking down Glenwood Springs lodging tax
Compared to other Colorado resort destinations, city’s current lodging tax is middle of road
Lodging tax collected in Glenwood Springs is primarily used for tourism promotion, but City Council recently debated increasing the tax to help fund affordable housing options.
Glenwood Springs currently taxes lodgers at 2.5%, and while council members did not solidify a proposed increase percentage during a special work session Tuesday, suggestions ranged as high as 7%.
According to data provided by Lisa Langer, the Visit Glenwood Springs director of tourism, 92.5% of the city’s lodging tax is used for the Tourism Promotion Budget. The city’s financial advisory board uses 7.5% of the tax to provide grants for nonprofit organizations, promote overnight stays and attract events, Langer wrote in an email. Additionally, the city moves $50,000 of the advisory board’s percentage into the general fund for events such as the Independence Day celebration, she added.
In order to increase the lodging tax, City Council would have to approve a tax question during their regular meeting Thursday, which would be added to the ballot in November for voters to approve or deny.
Mayor Jonathan Godes told council Tuesday that if voters approved the increased lodging tax, he would like to see the bulk of the additional money collected used to fund affordable housing options for Glenwood Springs. However, Council Member Steve Davis said he would like some of the money to help offset tourism impacts felt throughout the community, but especially keeping the downtown area clean.
When an overnight accommodation is purchased within city limits, the lodger is charged a tax of 11.1 percent. Of that, the state collects 2.9% sales tax, Garfield County collects 1%, Rural Transit Authority collects 1% and Glenwood Springs collects 2.5% lodging tax as well as 3.7% sales tax.
Glenwood Springs lodging taxes collected in past years:
2021 (as of May): Approximately $467,000
2020: Approximately $841,000
2019: Approximately $1.2 million
2018: Approximately $1.2 million
Compared to other Colorado cities of similar size, Glenwood Springs falls in the middle of the pack when it comes to collecting lodging tax.
Aspen collects 2.4% sales tax and 2% lodging tax. Durango collects 3.5% sales tax and 5.25% lodging tax. And, Vail collects 4% sales tax with no lodging tax.
On the high side, Denver collects a 10.75% lodging tax, and Aurora charges 8% lodging tax.
In addition to increasing lodging taxes, City Council also discussed adding a question to the November ballot, which could introduce an attractions tax.
As described in the proposed tax question, an attractions tax could tack another fee onto ticketed events and attractions that charge for admission, such as the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, Glenwood Hot Springs Resort and the Iron Mountain Hot Springs.
Godes proposed the attractions tax be introduced at 3.7%. City Attorney Karl Hanlon said the city does not currently collect sales tax on ticket sales or attractions admission.
While several members of the lodging community attended the Tuesday meeting, City Council does not permit public comments during special work sessions.
If they did, it’s unclear whether the lodging community would have much to say given the lack of information presented to the community prior to the meeting.
“It’s impossible to be for or against something when you don’t have any knowledge about it,” said Kevin Flohr, Glenwood Hot Springs Restort’s director of operations.
Flohr said he learned about the tax questions proposals Tuesday, but was unable to attend the meeting because of work. The proposal seemed rushed and like a “knee-jerk” reaction to a problem that has existed for years, he said.
“There’s a solution out there, but it takes a group of people coming together to try to solve this,” Flohr said. “It feels like it targets a tiny segment of businesses when every employer has the same issue. I think the entire community needs to have a part of this.”
Heather Austin, the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park and Iron Mountain Hot Springs sales and marketing manager said the two destinations were waiting for more information about the tax questions before formulating an opinion.
Similarly, Angie Anderson, the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association president and CEO, said the association was waiting to understand what is being proposed before publicly declaring support or opposition for the initiative.
City Council is scheduled to review changes and vote on the tax questions Sept. 2, during their regular session. If approved, the questions must be submitted to the Garfield County Clerk’s office by Sept. 3 to appear on the November ballot.
In addition to Colorado’s 2.9% sales tax, lodgers pay some additional taxes. Below is a comparison of the lodging taxes collected by various Colorado communities. The list does not include taxes collected by the state for marketing districts, counties or other additional fees, which vary with each community.
Glenwood Springs: Sales Tax: 3.7% Lodging Tax: 2.5%
Steamboat Springs: Sales Tax: 4.5% Lodging Tax: 1%
Colorado Springs: Sales Tax: 3.07% Lodging Tax: 2%
Estes Park: Sales Tax: 8.7% Lodging Tax: 10.7%
Aspen: Sales Tax: 2.4% Lodging Tax: 2%
Vail: Sales Tax: 4%, no lodging tax
Durango: Sales Tax: 3.5% Lodging Tax: 5.25%
Reporter Ike Fredregill can be reached at 970-384-9154 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.