Moab Sun News

Grand County Strategic Development Director Chris Baird presented an analysis of the county’s finances at the June 21 commission meeting, comparing current revenues from different kinds of taxes to historical trends.

The last few years have been difficult to analyze, Baird said, because of the pandemic. 2020 numbers were low because of shut-downs, and 2021 saw record highs as visitors returned to Moab. Baird speculated that people who deferred their vacations in 2020 or 2021 could continue to boost visitation numbers and revenues from the transient room and sales taxes for the next couple of years. For 2022, information is only available from the first quarter, but revenues are slightly higher than projections.

“The conclusion I draw from all this is that in terms of all the various sales tax collections, so far, we’re doing fine—and we shouldn’t compare to 2021 because that was a very strange year,” said Commissioner Kevin Walker. “Looking at multiple years the way you’ve done here, things look like they’re on track.”

“Up through March of 2022, we’re doing better than fine,” Baird said. “We’re actually in probably our most substantial growth spurt since maybe the uranium boom, quite honestly.”

“Looking back at statistics for the last 25 years, there’s no other time where we’ve seen as much growth in just a couple years’ time as we have right now,” said Baird, who commented that he expects the explosive growth to level out again quickly as things normalize after the height of the pandemic.

While the numbers appear to indicate robust growth, some business owners have expressed concerns about shifting attitudes towards tourism and a perceived drop in visitation. Some are concerned that the new timed-entry reservation system at Arches National Park is discouraging visitors from coming to Moab; others worry that Grand County’s advertising will be less effective in attracting tourists as county officials look to spend transient room taxes on tourism mitigation and other projects and to refocus their advertising campaigns on responsible recreation messaging.
During the Citizens to be Heard portion of the meeting, local business owner Howard Trenholme said that his business is down and blamed reduced advertising for the slump. A representative of the Sleep Inn and Mainstay hotels also called in to say that while revenues from transient room taxes are up for the county, individual hotels are seeing a slow-down.

“I just want to bring that to your attention as you work on marketing plans and other things, that we are definitely seeing a pretty sharp decline in business over the last two months,” he said.