10/1/2013 11:29:00 AM Williams Bed, Board and Booze up 14 percent Tourists from Europe and Asia help boost local economy
Top: Erin Chen, bartender at Station 66 in Williams, talks with Amber Kunselman last week. Bed, Board and Booze tax revenue is up 14 percent for the year to date in Williams. Bottom left: visitors from China relax at the Sheridan House Inn. Bottom right: Ralph and Annette Bitters enjoy a meal at the Grand Depot Cafe before riding the Grand Canyon Railway to the south rim. Ryan Williams/WGCN
Williams is seeing signs of economic recovery with the city's Bed, Board and Booze (BBB) revenue up compared to last year's numbers.
August saw a 21 percent increase in BBB revenue this year compared to last year. On the whole, BBB revenue is up 14 percent for year to date through August compared to last year for that time.
"If you just walk down Route 66 you can see that traffic's heavy from out of state and the restaurants are full and the hotels are full," said City of Williams Finance Director Keith Buonocore. "It's basically people I think have more discretionary money to spend on vacation again. I think the economy's kind of coming back."
The city's tax rate for restaurants and hotels is 4.5 percent. Money from the BBB fund goes to the Williams-Grand Canyon Chamber of Commerce, the Williams Recreation Center and the Williams and Forest Service Visitor Center.
In May when city staff was putting together the budget, Buonocore said they projected the BBB tax to bring in about $690,000 this year, compared to about $680,000 last year.
However, if the BBB continues to bring in increased revenue for the rest of the year, Buonocore said the fund could reach the mid $700,000 range.
"Right now we're exceeding what was back in 08-09, so that's a pretty good sign right there that we're over the hill here," Buonocore said. "The economy's coming back, but it's also due because of the global economy."
Buonocore said the city is seeing a lot of tourists from Europe and Asia visiting town, which is a contributing factor to increased BBB revenue.
"It's also driven by the value of the euro versus the dollar and the yen versus the dollar," he said. "When those are up and the dollar's down, that means people have more money to spend. They come over here and their money is worth a lot more than what the dollar is, so they think that's a good deal."
However, sustaining this trend of tourists spending more money in town could depend on the severity of the winter, Buonocore said.
The city's retail sales tax revenue is also up for July and August compared to those months last year. However, since the city increased the retail sales tax rate from 3 percent to 3.5 percent starting March 1, Buonocore said he expected a 15 percent to 16 percent increase in revenue.
"But July was a 23 percent increase, so over that 16 percent, we did get another 7 percent," he said. "So that's a good thing to show that retail's up."
Buonocore said predicting if the upward trend will continue is anyone's guess, but city staff is keeping a close eye on the tax revenues.
"We just hope that people keep spending their money here when they go through," Buonocore said. "It's good for the city, it's good for the community. It brings in more businesses and brings in more jobs, and that's what we're looking for."