Thermopolis Independent Record - Your source for news in Hot Springs County

By Mark Dykes
Editor 

Options for bringing more visitors to town

 

November 29, 2018



During the Nov. 27 meeting of Hot Springs Travel and Tourism, the board discussed ways that more tourists might be drawn to spend to more time in Thermopolis.

The discussion was spurred by a report from the Wyoming Economic Analysis Division, which showed Hot Springs County had a -0.7 percent change in lodging tax collections for the 2017-18 fiscal year. The tax collected dropped from $182,218 to $180,918, and Travel and Tourism Director Amanda Moeller pointed out Hot Springs was the only county that declined in lodging tax revenue.

"If you look at our neighbors," Moeller said, "Big Horn County went up 12.3 percent and theirs is considering only Lovell and Greybull." None of the other smaller communities are counted. Park County also went up 12 percent and Washakie County went up 0.1 percent. Moeller noted that 0.1 percent may not seem like much, but it's quite significant compared to the loss in Hot Springs County.

During the discussion, it was suggested that the decline in lodging tax receipts is due to there not being as many sports tournaments in town, as such tournaments would draw several teams and thus increase revenue at hotels. It was further suggested that updating hotels would also draw more people.

Concern was expressed about the number of properties for sale in town, though it was pointed out that an empty building doesn't mean its run down, but rather there's an opportunity for a new business. Other concerns raised were irregular business hours and how quickly negative comments travel by mouth and online.

It was also suggested there needs to be more late-night activities to keep people here, rather than heading home when an event ends mid-afternoon or early evening.

One point brought up during the discussion was that there was a lot of dancing around, rather than addressing, the big issues.

Also with regard to lodging tax receipts, Moeller said there was a good increase for November, which actually reflects the September receipts. The total was $33,134.87, compared to $26,823.64 last year, an increase of $6,311.23, or 24 percent. Moeller added this was a record high for the month compared to previous years.

In action, the board approved painting over one side of a billboard in Waltman. Moeller explained the board is two-sided, and Travel and Tourism utilizes the side westbound travelers see. For those travelling east, the board advertises a museum and that side has been deteriorating. Travel and Tourism rents the board out for the other advertising, and Moeller recently received an email stating the desire was to paint it over.

The board approved a $1,200 donation to the Thermopolis-Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce to replace Christmas decorations around town.

Also during the meeting, the board elected new officers for 2018-2019. Board president is Carl Leyba, vice president is Bob Spain, treasurer is Troy Dorman and secretary is Kevin Skates.

Mark Dykes

Moeller also presented information on upcoming 2019 Governor's Hospitality and Tourism Conference, January 27-29 in Cheyenne. Among the information that will be presented at the meeting is about leveraging resources from other state agencies, opportunities with international markets and employment challenges. Moeller noted much of the information will focus around online resources and social media.

Board members Troy Dorman, Matt Hughes and Bob Spain expressed interest in attending the conference.

Moeller also shared with the board a recent news clipping that reflects how lodging tax money cannot be used to keep a visitor's center open. She said there's been some discussion about whether there will be a Travel and Tourism office, noting there can be an office, they just can't use lodging tax to pay for a building, so they have to be careful with what the lodging tax is used for.

 

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