Opinion: Vote to renew the county lodging tax

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Dear Editor,

Fremont County voters will be asked on their November 8 general election ballot whether they wish to renew the 2% county lodging tax for another two years. Here are a few reasons why I’ll be voting “For.”

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Tourism Contributes Significantly to Fremont County’s Economy
Tourism is the second largest economic generator in the Cowboy State, generating jobs and living wages for year-round residents. Last year here in Fremont County — marketed as Wyoming’s Wind River Country — tourism directly supported 1,460 jobs and generated approximately $54.2 million in wages.

Visitors to Fremont County spent just shy of $158 million dollars in 2021, accounting for spending in the following areas:

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

The Lodging Tax – The Tax We Don’t Pay

Originally adopted in 1989, the renewed county lodging tax would continue to impose a 2% sales tax on “sleeping accommodations for guests in hotels, motels, tourist courts, trailer parks, campgrounds, dude ranches, short-term condominiums, and similar establishments” (e.g., Airbnb’s and VRBO’s). This tax falls almost exclusively on visitors to Fremont County, and the revenue collected would continue to be directly invested in attracting more visitors — and their dollars — to Fremont County. This is done by Fremont County’s destination marketing organization (DMO) and lodging tax board, the Wind River Visitors Council (WRVC), on which I currently serve as Vice President. Composed of representatives of Dubois, Hudson, Lander, Riverton, Shoshoni, and Fremont County, the WRVC exists “to stimulate tourism by increasing awareness of, and encouraging visitation to, the unique destinations, activities and events in Wind River Country.” Fremont County’s lodging tax revenue for fiscal year 2021/2022 (ending June 30, 2022) was a record-breaking $1,016,610.77, significantly higher than the previous record-breaking 2018/2019 fiscal year, which saw a total of $734,689.52 collected.

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Investing in Lander’s Tourism Assets
On behalf of the City of Lander, the Lander Chamber allocates annually tens of thousands of dollars of lodging tax proceeds in the form of Tourism Asset Development (TAD) Grants to non-profit and civic organizations whose events and programs attract visitors to Lander. Through the years, there are few, if any, events/programs held or hosted in Lander that have not been supported by a Lander Chamber TAD Grant. A sample of these include the Pioneer Days Rodeo and Parade, Native American dances, Lander Presents summer concert series, Fremont Area Road Tour, Jurassic Classic mountain bike festival, RiverFest srt festival, Lander Valley Farmers’ Market, One Shot Antelope Hunt, Challenge for Charities, 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, many more!

Tourism drives Lander’s economy and makes our little city an attractive destination for both tourists and locals. Vote “For” to renew the county lodging tax!

Thank you for your time and consideration of my comments.

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Kind regards,

Owen Sweeney

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