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Economic indicator statistics are inconsistent for The Valley

08/09/2007

 By Lisa Loomis

The data which might offer insight into the business climate in The Valley is varied in availability, reliability and accuracy.

The Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce tracks occupancy rates at local inns, lodges and condos. That information is analyzed and reported back to members. The Vermont Department of Taxation collects data on sales receipts for rooms, meals and alcohol for individual towns as well as counties. That data is available only in preliminary form and only through March.

Those two sources of data show conflicting trends and a third source of data, revenue projected from the wedding business in The Valley, offers a different picture as well. The chamber's occupancy data goes only through 2005 and shows a slowdown. The state's tax data for the first three months of 2007 shows an uptick in business, as measured by taxes collected on revenues.

RAW DATA

The chamber's raw data on overnight visitors in The Valley has been tracked from 1996 through 2006. Chamber director Susan Roy said that the data is raw with no analysis and does not account for businesses adding and/or removing rooms, or dropping out of the reporting program entirely.

Nonetheless, the chamber's data does show room nights available, room nights rented, percentage of occupancy and total numbers of overnight visitors. Beginning in 1996, there were 338,872 visitors reported. That number went to 298,927 in 1997, 290,000 in 1998, 287,140 in 1999, 244,194 in 2000, 243,486 in 2001, 213,330 in 2002, 208,000 in 2003, 182,101 in 2004 and 183,188 in 2005.

Percentage of occupancy in the winter months from 1996 to 2005 varied significantly. The highest point was 2001 when occupancy was reported at 50.1 percent and the lowest of 2005 with 40.2 percent. In 1996, winter occupancy was 48.4. Year-round occupancy in 1996 was reported at 32.8 percent.  In 1999 it rose to 34.6 percent and then fell to 28.2 percent in 2005.

SIGNIFICANT GROWTH

Those stats are countered by significant growth in one particular sector of visitors to The Valley, those holding and attending weddings. The chamber reports a nearly 300 percent increase in visitor traffic to the local weddings website from 2004-2005. Roy reports that the 'average unique visitor' traffic (to the website) rose from 1,100 per month to an average of 3,000 'unique visits' from 2004-2005. In 2006 the number of 'unique visits' rose to 8,230 per month.

In terms of wedding functions, the chamber's estimated numbers for 2002 suggest there were 5,273 people attending local weddings and that they were spending $500 per person for a boon of $2.6 million to the local economy. In 2003, the number of estimated attendees rose to 6,315 people spending a total of $3.1 million locally. The 2004 estimate has 7,250 people adding $3.6 million to the local economy and the 2005 number estimate 9,333 people adding $4.7 million to the local economy. Roy pointed out that those numbers are reported by six local facilities which host weddings and that they do not include at-home/private functions. The cost/spending estimates include the cost of the wedding, reception, caterer, flowers, guest/lodging/spending spread out over an average 100-guest wedding.

ROOMS AND MEALS

The state's rooms and meals and alcohol tax offers a detailed breakdown for Warren and Waitsfield and Washington County and Vermont but does not provide data for Fayston because there are fewer than 10 reporting/paying businesses in that town.

Rooms and meals and alcohol tax data was found on a state website, in preliminary but not final form (http://www.state.vt.us/tax/statisticsm&rmonthly.shtml). That data shows that in January  2007 Warren businesses paid taxes on $510,872 in meals (up 13.1 percent from 2006), $583,329 in rooms (down 3.4 percent from 2006) and 170,091 in alcohol (up 12.2 percent from 2006). Waitsfield businesses paid taxes on $426,895 in meals (down 3.7 percent from 2006), $144,648 in rooms (down 16.2 percent) and $130,529 in alcohol (down 5.5 percent from 2006). In January 2007 Washington County generated $5,033,389 in meals receipts, $1,489,065 in rooms receipts and $915,944 in alcohol receipts.

WARREN BUSINESSES

In February 2007, Warren businesses generated $780,886 in meals receipts, up 29.2 percent from 2006. Warren businesses generated $1,292,527 in rooms receipts, up 9.4 percent from 2006 and those businesses generated $236,353 in alcohol receipts, up 24.3 percent from 2006.

In Waitsfield, the February 2007 state figure shows that businesses generated and paid taxes on $546,606 in meals (up 9 percent from 2006), $242,007 in rooms (down 12.8 percent from 2006) and $156,589 in alcohol (up 1.1 percent from 2006).

In February 2007, all of Washington County generated $5,514,206 in meals receipts, $2,486,110 in rooms receipts, and $1,053,179 in alcohol receipts.

In March 2007, Warren businesses generated taxes on meals receipts of $672,349, up 41 percent from 2006. During that month, Warren businesses paid rooms taxes on receipts of $842,746, up 22 percent from 2006. Taxes were paid on alcohol receipts of $236,128, up 38.5 percent from 2006.

WAITSFIELD BUSINESSES

Waitsfield's businesses, in March, generated $511,558 in meals revenues/taxes, up 19.8 percent from 2006. Waitsfield paid rooms taxes on revenues of $165,438, up 12.4 percent from 2006, and paid taxes on $163,916 in alcohol sales, up 34.7 percent from 2006.

In March, all of Washington County generated $5,865,739 in meals revenues, $1,821,456 in rooms revenues and $1,155,743 in alcohol revenues.

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