WHAT: The Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau is in the process of increasing partnership dues investments proportionally and equitably across all categories over five years to close the current funding gap, and demonstrate a commitment by all VCOS partners to collectively market the region. The long-term goal is to increase Lodging Tax from 2% to 4% and Car Rental Tax from 1% to 2% via a citizen vote. For the Lodging & Automobile Rental Tax (LART) initiative to be successful in the coming years, additional funding from the private sector is critical.
How will this benefit me and my business?
The community, VCOS and our members are all devoted to our region’s tourism success because tourism is a significant contributor to our economy. This means supporting all the investment that is taking place in the form of new properties, attractions and experiences. The tourism industry is highly competitive and visitors need to be continually, and proactively invited to our destination. Increased marketing dollars allow us to collectively and effectively stay top-of-mind with travelers, compete for visitation, and remain at the forefront of marketing, communications and booking technology. When we all work together toward a common goal, we are all successful.
Why is VCOS implementing this new structure?
Tourism promotion efforts for Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region are underfunded compared to our competitive set. This can be evidenced by comparing our tax collections to 150 other domestic cities in the U.S. as well as findings from a commissioned Tourism Economics study conducted in 2015. It is VCOS’s responsibility to tell the destination’s story, effectively represent the entire Pikes Peak region, and create as much awareness as possible to generate incremental visitation to the region. Our goal is to achieve sustainable and competitive funding from both public and private sources.
How will these incremental dollars be used?
The incremental dues collected will be used to increase marketing of the Pikes Peak region to leisure travelers and event planners. For example, VCOS has achieved success by marketing to cities that have direct flights into the Colorado Springs Airport. As the funding for these campaigns increases, the industry can expect an increase in deplanements at our airport, and increased visitation. Branding Colorado Springs as Olympic City USA has proven to be another successful initiative that will benefit further from additional funding. Additional funding will enhance our presence at trade shows, improving our chances of hosting more group travelers. More cooperative advertising with the Colorado Tourism Office allows VCOS to leverage ad dollars to reach a wider audience. The upcoming U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum, reopening of Flying W Ranch and a new Pikes Peak Summit Complex and visitor center are all examples of new assets that need to be marketed nationally and internationally.
Were other funding avenues researched before restructuring dues?
Yes. Based on recommendations from the Tourism Economics Study, various avenues for funding were explored. First, tourism leaders worked with state legislators to adjust state law so that attractions could be taxed through Local Marketing Districts if approved by voters. This effort was unsuccessful because there was strong opposition from the ski industry to change the law, thus a lack of legislative support. Discussions on establishing an attraction tax within Colorado Springs were discontinued when local polling revealed that citizens were not in favor of an attraction tax. Second, VCOS worked with industry leaders and elected officials to determine the best path forward to increase the LART. Local polling showed that a slight majority of citizens would be in favor of an increase to the LART. However, due to other priorities concerning infrastructure, VCOS determined that the time is not yet right to put a LART increase initiative on the ballot. The VCOS Board and industry representatives agree that restructuring dues equitable to all Partners is the most immediate and equitable way to create incremental funding, and lay the groundwork for a LART increase ballot initiative.
Who was involved in making this decision?
The results of the Tourism Economics study began the dialogue to address tourism promotion underfunding. After efforts to create a Local Marketing District attractions tax were not successful, the VCOS Board, industry partners, community leaders and representatives agreed on dues restructuring. The VCOS Board, VCOS Finance and Audit Committee, Pikes Peak Lodging Association and Pikes Peak Country Attractions Association members have all provided valuable suggestions and feedback. The VCOS Board approved the restructuring plan on January 17, 2017.
How will this impact my investment?
The increases over the five-year period differ by each VCOS Partner category (lodging, attractions, recreation, dining, retail and a variety of others). Attractions and recreation categories will see the largest increases to achieve parity with the benefit they receive from regional tourism promotion. Lodging partners outside of Colorado Springs, who do not contribute to LART, will have higher increases than lodging properties within the City of Colorado Springs that do contribute to LART. These variations among the different Partner categories allow all VCOS Marketing Partners to participate in the dues restructuring in an equitable manner. VCOS staff is communicating with each Partner to explain the details of the dues for each category and individual business. If you haven’t yet heard from VCOS, please contact us directly for more details regarding your specific business.
Will I receive any additional benefits for my investment?
VCOS continuously strives to deliver additional benefits for Partner investment in the organization. The main short-term benefit to each partner is that Visit Colorado Springs will reach more potential travelers and event planners so that we can continue to grow the industry, and each Partner’s business. The long-term benefit of the dues restructuring is setting our industry up for a successful ballot initiative to increase LART, and generate the funds necessary to remain competitive as a vacation, meeting and event destination.
When will the new dues structure take effect?
If your VCOS anniversary date falls on April 1st, 2017, or after, your new dues investment structure will be reflected on the next invoice you receive. If you would like more details on your cost, and the timing of the new fees, please contact Denise Noble at 719.685.7641 or Denise@VisitCOS.com.
Are all Partner categories included in the dues investment restructure?
Yes. This restructuring will take place across all Partner categories and ensure that each category and Partner is making a proportional and equitable investment.
If an increase to the Lodgers & Automobile Rental tax passes, will the dues restructure be canceled?
No. The VCOS restructuring has been approved to take place over the course of the next five years. If the initiative passes, the plan will be to stay the course with the approved dues increases through March of 2022. Increased private contributions (dues) are part of the Tourism Economics recommendation for increased promotional funding, along with increased LART. While increased private sector, contributions will help demonstrate industry participation in increased funding and hopefully gain citizen support of a LART increase, these increased dues also help maintain a reasonable percentage of private to public support and provide additional dollars for marketing. Reducing dues if LART increases would reduce private participation and generate a negative image of the industry’s willingness to help pay to bring more visitors.