Steamboat Chamber pitches including ‘destination stewardship’ in updated accommodations tax question |

Steamboat Chamber pitches including ‘destination stewardship’ in updated accommodations tax question

Two-word addition would allow funding to flow toward Chamber and other organizations that work to address the community impacts of tourism

The waters of the Yampa River flow through downtown Steamboat Springs Tuesday afternoon, March 14, 2023.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

The Steamboat Springs Chamber is asking for two words to be added to updated spending parameters of the city’s accommodations tax that voters will see on the ballot in November.

The additional words are “destination stewardship,” which would allow some of the dollars collected by the accommodations tax to flow toward the Chamber, though it would still be subject to Steamboat Springs City Council’s discretion.

In a work session on Tuesday, April 11, council members indicated they were open to adding language to allow some accommodations tax funding to go to the Chamber but showed some hesitation with the phrase “destination stewardship.”

Council President Robin Crossan said she didn’t like the word “destination” — a comment that aligns with council’s last discussion on repurposing the tax dollars in January that saw consensus around removing tourism references to the tax question. Crossan suggested they say “community stewardship” instead.

“That word seems to be a better word to use because it is putting our community first,” Crossan said. “And, in addition to the Chamber, it would allow other organizations in our community to get funded to help us with stewardship within our community.”

The 1% accommodations tax has largely been focused on trails in the last decade, but those parameters are set to sunset, which reverts the question back to language first approved by voters in 1986.

Council members have said they intend to propose new language to voters in November that would expand on the initial question to allow for the funding to be used to maintain the amenities it has helped build over its existence. Currently, maintenance for these amenities needs to come from the general fund.

In recent weeks, members of the Chamber board have approached council about loosening the language to allow for some funding to go toward the Chamber’s destination management efforts.

“Destination stewardship is an approach to destination management and communications where the public sector, private sector and residents are engaged jointly to preserve and protect our community as well as benefit from visitation,” wrote Sarah Fox, president of the Chamber board, in a letter to City Council. “We believe this addition is a collaborative solution that addresses several of our community priorities.”

Scott Marr and Kathy Elliott, both chamber board members, wrote in their own letters that adding this language would allow the city to fund destination management efforts with a dedicated source that stems from tourism and not the city’s general fund.

About a half-dozen letters were included in the council packet for Tuesday’s meeting, with some also pointing to the short-term rental tax. With that tax using revenue created by tourism, managing that tourism is important to ensure that funding continues to come in, letters said.

“The proactive activity of destination stewardship is the chicken that delivers the egg, in this case, the revenues that fund our efforts to address the housing crisis,” wrote Chamber board member Michael Marchand.

A consensus of council members asked City Attorney Dan Foote to bring back a version of the question that incorporates some form of destination stewardship for a first reading sometime in May. At that time, council would also consider the current draft language that does not include stewardship.

Council members said they want to write the question in a way that could allocate some money to the Chamber, but other organizations as well. The question may also allow for this money to be used by the city itself to hire staff that may work on destination stewardship such as river rangers to help manage recreation on the Yampa River.

Still, there was some skepticism. Council member Joella West pointed out that the term stewardship is often hard for community members to understand what it actually means.

Council member Dakotah McGinlay said she feels community members have been clear they don’t want this money to be spent on marketing, and their sentiment toward destination management isn’t entirely understood yet.

“We’re still questioning whether or not destination stewardship or management is something that the community will support,” McGinlay said. “I’m okay with the current language as it is, because I feel like we can really utilize that money.”

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