Notice: Vote to renew the departmental accommodation tax

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Dear Editor,

Fremont County voters will be asked when they cast their ballots for the Nov. 8 general election if they wish to renew the county’s 2% lodging tax for another two years. Here are some reasons why I will vote “For”.

Tourism contributes significantly to the economy of Fremont County
Tourism is Cowboy State’s second largest economic driver, providing jobs and decent wages for residents year-round. Last year here in Fremont County – marketed as The Wind River Country in Wyoming — tourism directly supported 1,460 jobs and generated about $54.2 million in wages.

Visitors to Fremont County spent just under $158 million in 2021, representing spending in the following areas:

  • $30.7 million in restaurants (up 16.9% from 2020)
  • $27.8 million in accommodations (up 56.4%)
  • $21.6 million in arts, entertainment and recreation (up 16%)
  • $19.9 million in gasoline and local transportation (+54.7%)
  • $17.4 million in shopping (up 17.6%)
  • $9.8 million in grocery stores (up 18.8%)
  • $1 million in visitor air travel (up 20.7%)

Accommodation tax – The tax we don’t pay

Originally passed in 1989, the new county lodging tax would continue to impose a 2% sales tax on “bedrooms for guests in hotels, motels, tourist grounds, parks trailers, campgrounds, ranches, short-term condominiums and similar establishments”. (for example, Airbnb and VRBO). This tax falls almost exclusively on visitors to Fremont County, and the revenue collected would continue to be directly invested in bringing more visitors – and their dollars – to Fremont County. This is done by the Fremont County Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) and Accommodation Tax Council, the Wind River Visitors Council (WRVC), of which I am currently vice-president. Comprised of representatives from Dubois, Hudson, Lander, Riverton, Shoshoni, and Fremont County, the WRVC exists “to stimulate tourism by creating awareness and encouraging visitation to Wind River Country’s unique destinations, activities, and events.” Fremont County lodging tax revenue for fiscal year 2021/2022 (ending June 30, 2022) reached a record high of $1,016,610.77, significantly higher than the previous record fiscal year 2018/ 2019, which saw a total of $734,689.52 raised.

Investing in the tourist assets of Lander
On behalf of the City of Lander, the Lander Chamber allocates tens of thousands of dollars of lodging tax proceeds each year in the form of Tourism Asset Development (TAD) grants to non-profit organizations and civic organizations whose events and programs attract visitors to Lander. Over the years, there are few, if any, events/programs held or hosted in Lander that have not been supported by a TAD grant from Lander Chamber. A sampling of these include the Pioneer Days Rodeo and Parade, Native American Dances, Lander Presents Summer Concert Series, Fremont Area Tour, Jurassic Classic Mountain Bike Festival, RiverFest srt , Lander Valley Farmers’ Market, One Shot Antelope Hunt, Charity Challenge, Fremont Toyota Shootout, Lander Girls Softball League, International Climbers’ Festival, Lander Brewfest, Wyoming Outdoor Weekend & Expo, Fremont County Pioneer Museum, Sinks Canyon Rough & Tumble Trail Races, Lander Senior Babe Ruth Baseball, Museum of the American West, Lander Art District Street Fair, Garden Expo, Wings n’ Wheels Fly-In/Airshow/Car Show, and many more!

Tourism is the engine of Lander’s economy and makes our small town an attractive destination for tourists. and Locals. Vote “For” to renew the departmental accommodation tax!

Thank you for your time and attention to my comments.

Sincere friendships,

Owen Sweeney

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