January was hot to TOT | TahoeDailyTribune.com

January was hot to TOT

Sally J. Taylor

Even a lackluster tourist month could beat January 1997, when flood damage and mudslides closed U.S. Highway 50. So it’s no surprise that the city collected 36 percent more room tax dollars in January 1998.

But the numbers, released Wednesday by South Lake Tahoe city offices, also reflect a good January for lodging even compared to the seven-year average for the month.

In January of this year, the city collected $670,682 from lodging properties in the city, a substantial increase compared to $493,319 a year ago.

Compared to two years ago when the city collected $508,806, January 1998 reflected a 32 percent increase. And, compared to the seven-year average for January from 1990 to 1997, transient occupancy taxes were 34 percent above average.

For the fiscal year to date, October through January, 21 percent more taxes have been collected than during the same four months a year ago and 8 percent more than that period two years ago.

“There’s still a long way to go for Tahoe,” said Lynn Stafford, general manager of Inn by the Lake. “But, as compared to the last few years, to see an increase, that’s a very good sign.”

Stafford described both January and February as very good months for her hotel, despite the frequent storms on weekends during February.

“I was forecasting rather aggressively and we still exceeded predictions,” she said.

Transient occupancy taxes are considered a good measure of the health of tourism in the community.

The lodging industry still has plenty of room for growth, however.

Average occupancy for hotels and motels remains low at 39 percent for January. A year ago, it was 30 percent. In 1996, occupancy was 34 percent and in 1995, 38 percent.

Other details from the January TOT report include:

— Vacation rentals had 37 percent occupancy for the month, up 2 percent compared to the same month last year.

— The smallest motels, those with one to 15 rooms, enjoyed the highest occupancy rate of 43 percent with the largest motels, from 76 rooms on up, close behind at 42 percent. The lowest occupancy rate, at 29 percent, was for motels with 31 to 50 rooms.

— Motels in Zone 2, south of U.S. Highway 50 between Al Tahoe Boulevard and Park Avenue, had the lowest occupancy in the city limits at 33 percent. Zone 3 motels, on the lake side of Al Tahoe and Bijou, had the highest occupancy at 43 percent.

— The average room rate of $64.92 in January reflected a $6.78 increase compared to 1997 but still trailing the 1996 rate of $76.10.

— Vacation rental rates, at $181.39, increased by $11.97 compared to last year and by $12.85 compared to January, 1996.

— January taxes declined by 25 percent compared to the previous month. In December, normally a strong month due to the Christmas holidays and early ski vacations, $755,004 entered the city coffers.

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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