MOSCOW – Idaho is on track to surpass the $10 million mark in revenue from a 2 percent lodging tax for the fiscal year that ends June 30.
The state is experiencing 13 percent growth in the tax compared with last year, and Idaho Department of Commerce Director Megan Ronk said the amount collected is expected to set a record.
The news drew applause from a crowd of more than 150 people gathered Wednesday at Moscow’s Best Western Plus University Inn for the Idaho Conference on Recreation and Tourism.
The growth reflects strength throughout the state, Ronk said in her speech to a group that included owners of tourism businesses, chamber of commerce leaders and economic development experts.
“It’s been a collective and diverse effort, just like our product offerings,” she said.
The amount of lodging tax collected could climb even higher in coming years. A total of about 1,200 new hotel and motel rooms are expected to be ready for visitors around the state by the end of 2017, Ronk said.
Those are two of many indications of how important tourism is to the state’s economy, Ronk said. Tourism is the state’s third-largest industry, behind agriculture and technology.
Travel spending in the state totaled about $3.3 billion in 2015, up from about $2.7 billion in 2010. That’s according to Bill Klein, whose firm Dean Runyan Associates in Portland, did a study on the influence of tourism on Idaho. About 75 percent of tourist money came from out-of-state visitors, he said.
The tourism sector is responsible for 5,740 jobs in Idaho, including positions in hotels, restaurants, attractions, art galleries and other businesses that serve travelers.
While Idaho lags behind other Western states in categories such as the number of international travelers or visitors arriving through airports, Klein said it has the second-highest ratio of second homes to owner-occupied homes, behind Montana.
A number of efforts are underway to make Idaho a vacation destination for even more people. Among them are an “18 summers” campaign that encourages parents to make the most of family vacations during the 18 years while their kids are growing up. The campaign is targeting travelers in places like Seattle and Reno, but Ronk noted she’ll be taking advantage of the program with her own young family.
“We have so many awesome experiences right here in our backyard,” she said.
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