Restaurant Tax to fund tourism efforts | ParkRecord.com

Restaurant Tax to fund tourism efforts

Gina Barker, The Park Record

Business organizations in and around Park City recently unearthed some much-needed funding from the Summit County Restaurant Tax, a major contributor for soon-to-be-implemented marketing and tourism efforts. With an approval from the Summit County council last week, business organizations received nearly $800,000 in grants out of the total $1.6 million available.

Applicants for the grant included a wide array of nonprofits, from Park City’s Egyptian Theater to the Peoa’s Special Services District but also included nonprofits that support businesses. Since 1992, the Summit County Restaurant Tax has served as a way for local nonprofits, which includes business organizations such as the Park City Chamber/Bureau and the Historic Park City Alliance, to fund projects and efforts that increase tourism to the county.

"The Restaurant Tax is a tax that each restaurant is required to charge," said Anita Lewis, the assistant county manager and ex-offcio to the committee that reviews all Restaurant Tax grant applicants. "The monies are collected by the state and distributed back to the counties This year the committee was working with $1.6 million but that number varies every year. When the economy took a hit, we saw a service slump, a slump in what was accumulated from the restaurant tax."

"It was a very good year this year, exceptional even," she added.

This year’s tax revenue came from the 2010-11 ski season, a strong winter in tourism revenue which allotted for an increase in what the county could distribute. That increase added nearly $20,000 from the previous year in funds allocated to business organizations alone.

"It’s a good problem to have in my mind, to have more money than the year before," said Monty Coates, a local business owner and Summit County Restaurant Tax Advisory Committee chair. " Some grants are very deserving and we know they are going to bring visitors with the money. Others, not quite so much."

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A number of business organizations that received a bump in funding from last year include: the Park City Area Lodging Association, which received $22,000 more than last year, a total of $172,000 in grants; and the Park City Area Restaurant Association, which received $4,000 more than last year, a total of $201,000 in grants.

"(The International Mountain Biking Association) gave Park City a designation as Gold Level Ride Center, the first of its kind," said Teri Whitney, the treasurer for the local lodging association. "We thought there will be more cities to follow and we wanted to get that out to the world, that Park City was the first and, so far, only one designated."

The organization plans to use its extra funding promoting that designation through offering press visits, buying advertisement space in bike-related magazines, creating vouchers for lodging members to package, building a micro-website and email campaigns. The funding builds on what the county’s grant committee awarded the Park City Area Lodging Association last year to promote summer activities in the area.

The Kimball Junction Business Association put together its first grant application to the county, receiving matching funds of $3,500 to design and print a Kimball Junction map for visitors.

"Our goal is to create a map that shows what we have to offer in Kimball Junction," said Teresa Wharton, a member of the business association. "It’s something we can distribute through the Chamber/Bureau and nearby lodging.

"We’ll also have an opportunity to market the businesses in the area. We can put this map, along with coupons, in our event bags. We’re hoping this will drive more business."

Traditionally one of the largest recipients, the Park City Chamber/Bureau, plans to use its funds for a national television campaign, features for the new Visitor’s Center, the Tour of Utah bike race and marketing the annual Fast Pitch World Series. In the television campaign alone, county funding accounts for roughly a third of the cost.

"The fact that we’re doing television campaigns in our key markets, the most important markets in the winter for us, has helped us save our winter season," said Bill Malone, the president and CEO of the Chamber/Bureau. "We were down in snowfall, just like our competition. If we look on the national level, skier days were down by something close to 15 percent. Park City was only down by 5 percent, and that’s because we’ve been out in marketplace plugging away."

While tourism did not dramatically decrease, Coates said he expects to see some fluctuation in what the county will have available next year.

"I hope we won’t see dramatic shift, but we could," he said. "We could see numbers go down, but its important to know that tourism wasn’t off dramatically and neither were our skier days If it is down a little bit because of snow conditions, I don’t expect it to be much."