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Saturday, March 24, 2018

Hotel guests leave behind more than dirty towelsTourism bed tax collections strong

Hotel guests leave behind more than dirty towels

Tourism bed tax collections strong

By Jason Stuart
Ranger-Review Staff Writer
Nearly four years into its existence, the Dawson County Tourism Business Improvement District is paying big dividends for the community.

“I think it’s gone beyond our expectations,” said Amy Deines, director of the Dawson County Economic Development Council. “We’ve already had well over $100,000 that’s been given back to the community through this.”

Montana state law requires TBID funding be administered by an economic development group or a conventions and visitors bureau, which is why Deines is involved in administering the TBID program.

The TBID, which was begun in April 2010, is funded through a $1-per-night surcharge on all hotel rooms in the county. The program is managed by a board composed of four local hotel owners and managers.

At present, there are 425 hotel rooms available in Dawson County. Another 69 will become available when the Holiday Inn Express opens its doors this spring.

According to data provided by Deines, hotel occupancy is holding steady. In fact, hotel occupancy in the second and third quarter of 2013, at 81 and 78 percent, respectively, was at the highest percentage its been since the TBID program began.

However, the total occupancy percentage includes so-called “long stays,” which are rooms rented out for extended periods by oil companies and the like for their workers. “Long stays” are exempt from the TBID charge.

Still, regular hotel use remains strong. In the third quarter of 2013, the TBID program collected the largest amount it has since it began with $22,663 in TBID fees paid.

To Deines, one of the best things about the TBID is that the money comes from out-of-town visitors, not locals.

“It’s kind of a win-win, because it’s not taken out of the community, but from people traveling through” she said. “It’s new source funding, so I like that.”

The TBID program also has wide latitude in how those funds are distributed.

“We do not have any exclusions in this, anybody can apply for it,” Deines said. “We have some great flexibility that you wouldn’t have with other grant funding. We’ve given some good money to some good projects.”

Projects and organizations that have received TBID funds include the Frontier Gateway Museum, Babe Ruth Baseball, American Legion Baseball, the Boys and Girls Club, Dawson Community College, the Richey Historical Society and the Makoshika walking path, among others. 

The single biggest beneficiary to date has been the Dawson County Fair, which has received $39,000 in TBID funds over the last two years.

Since TBID began, it has raised $221,597 and funded $113,690 in grant requests. The DCEDC receives a 20 percent allocation of the funds raised as an administrative fee.

And Deines still sees potential for improvement. She wants to see Glendive better promoted as a location for major events given the new hotels going up around town recently.

“The main thing is now, with all of these extra hotels, we can be seen as a place to have events,” Deines said.

She also said the city needs to combat the perception that hotel rooms are hard to come by in Glendive. 

According to Deines, there’s a “misconception outside of this area” that Glendive’s hotels are always full. She said that may be true to an extent during the week when oilfield and railroad workers are in town, but the hotels usually have plenty of space on the weekends.

And, of course, increasing hotel visits would increase the amount of funding raised through the TBID that would then be available to local organizations and projects.

“As a non-profit, I know how hard it is to find funding, so it’s nice to have a funding source like (TBID),” Deines said.

Any group wanting to apply for a TBID grant can contact Deines at 377-7792 for an application form. The TBID board awards grants on a quarterly basis.

Reach Jason Stuart at rrreporter@rangerreview.com.

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