How Albany Hotels Handled the Pandemic | Local

Tourism could rebound this summer in Albany if recent trends continue, new hotel occupancy tax reports suggest.

Albany Director of Economic Development Seth Sherry shared his thoughts on the prospect with the Transitional Lodging Tax Advisory Committee on Tuesday, Feb. 1.

Tourism is an important part of the city’s bottom line, as the city collects a fee every time someone stays overnight at a hotel or Airbnb.

Go back up

Between July and November of last year, the city collected about $586,000 in lodging tax revenue, or about 75% of pre-pandemic revenue, Sherry reported. He hopes the recovery will continue over the summer.

“It’s very encouraging to see that people are active and have come out and revenue has increased, at least in the first quarter,” Sherry said.

A major grass seed exporter, Albany’s recreation and hospitality industry employed 3,088 people, or more than one in 10 workers in 2019, according to the Oregon Department of Employment.

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From 2011 to 2019, the city’s accommodation tax revenue grew an average of 8% per year. But in June 2020, revenues fell more than 25% below 2017 levels amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Transient lodging taxes are collected quarterly from providers such as hotels or Airbnbs, at the state, county, and municipal level. The state lodging tax rate is 1.5%, 3% in Linn County and 9% in Albany.

Tourism boasting

Revenues are intended for local government sponsored tourism-related promotional programs, which covers advertising costs and grants.

This money is the cornerstone of local organizations like the Albany Visitors’ Association tasked with attracting tourists. In addition to writing Albany’s official tourist guide online and in print, the agency helps sell the city to travelers, executive director Rebecca Bond said.

“We try to get them to go everywhere and stay longer,” Bond said. “If we can tell them about McDowell Creek Falls or the Willamette National Forest in Sweet Home, it encourages people to come and explore the great outdoors year-round.”

Since June, Albany has reported $807,799 in lodging tax revenue, an increase of 3.9% from its 2020 figures and 9% from 2019 levels.

Sherry told the Transitional Accommodation Tax Committee on Tuesday that the city council may have less money to spend on programs than it hopes.

“There are revenue charges or obligations that go way beyond the first quarter,” Sherry said. “So it’s not like it’s just all the extra money that’s left.”

Sherry said the Albany City Council should consolidate its lodging tax reserves, which were devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The committee decided to recommend that the city restore reserves to its level. $100,000 pre-pandemic.

Federal data shows that 745 Albany businesses have received more than $61 million in loans through the Paycheck Protection Program to date. But less than $250,000 of that money went to hotels, according to federal databases.

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Outside of the meeting, Renee Hoskins, who runs Studio 6 Suites in Albany with her husband, said the city should spend more money on lodging tax in the type of marketing campaigns she sees in the wine region of Oregon, such as Marion County.

“I think more ads are more important than anything else,” Hoskins said. “The problem with the service industry is that you depend on the public more than anyone.”

Hoskins has run the extended-stay motel in Albany for the past three years since she and her husband, who live in Wilsonville, entered the industry. She said their biggest problem now is finding workers, not taxes.

“I post ads on Facebook and Craigslist, and no one responds,” Hoskins said. “Money is still tight, but the problem now is that no one wants to work.”

On Tuesday, Pam Silbernagel, a member of the Transitional Lodging Tax Advisory Committee, shared her peers’ optimism that the positive lodging tax numbers could reshape the upcoming budget debate at City Hall. .

“I think these numbers show us that we’re back to normal,” Silbernagel said. “And I think that changes our conversation about the budget.”

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Members of the Transitional Lodging Tax Advisory Committee said Tuesday they plan to hold their next meeting this summer.

Tim Gruver covers the city of Albany and Linn County. He can be reached at 541-812-6114 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter via @T_TimeForce.

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