Compared to fiscal year 2018, the city of Council Bluffs lost $273,028 in hotel/motel taxes during the fourth quarter of the year, which ran from April 1 to June 30, as a result of ongoing Missouri River flooding.
The Iowa Department of Revenue reported the city collected $774,818 in hotel/motel taxes during the three-month period compared to $1,047,846 that was collected during April, May and June of 2018.
This is the lowest total for Council Bluffs hotel/motel taxes collected in the fourth quarter since 2011.
The loss can be attributed to the year’s flooding along the Missouri River which caused three months of temporary closures on Interstate 29 from Missouri Valley to St. Joseph, Missouri, from mid-March to mid-June.
While the interstate was fully reopened on May 18 from the March flooding, a second round of flooding at the end of the month closed it once more until June 18.
Though stretches of the interstate were open around Council Bluffs, many travelers coming from the north or south were unable to easily travel to the area because of detours, resulting in the loss in hotel/motel stays.
“We didn’t realize the full extent of how the flooding affected the city’s travel economy until we saw the revenue report.” Mark Eckman, executive director of the Council Bluffs Convention and Visitors Bureau said. “We expected a decreased number of visitors but not to this extent.”
Eckman said that while no conventions were cancelled because of the flooding, some sports teams were unable to get to Council Bluffs easily because of the flooding. Too, some major events such as Loessfest had to be cancelled because of flooding which has kept the Tom Hanafan River’s Edge Park under water since mid-March.
Council Bluffs was not the only river city affected. The Iowa Department of Revenue report shows that eastern Iowa cities along the Mississippi River, which also flooded, like Davenport and Dubuque also lost revenue during the fourth quarter compared to a year ago.
The river city of Davenport lost $93,269 in hotel/motel taxes that quarter compared to fiscal year 2018.
Looking at the full fiscal year, the City of Council Bluffs lost $257,959 compared to fiscal 2018. Increased hotel/motel tax collections in the summer of 2018 and the winter of 2019 before the flooding were able to compensate for some of the loss during the fourth quarter.
“While it’s disappointing to see a decrease in hotel/motel tax revenue this year, the loss serves as a reminder of how vital Interstate 29 is for travel and tourism and how much visitors contribute to the city’s revenue,” Eckman said.
Eckman said the Convention and Visitors Bureau staff will attempt to evaluate what steps might be taken to counteract future flooding.
Though Council Bluffs Mayor Matt Walsh said the fourth-quarter loss of hotel/motel tax revenue would not have a major impact on the city’s budget, he noted the loss would have an impact in a deeper way.
He said most experts suggest multiplying hotel/motel tax revenues by factors as high as seven to estimate the impact of tourism on a community when you factor in such things as visitors’ spending on gas, food and entertainment.
“If you take a conservative approach and use a multiplier of four, the fourth quarter impact on the community from the loss of tourism because of the flooding was closer to $1 million or more,” Walsh said. “In addition to the loss of hotel/motel tax revenue, the city also lost sales tax revenue.”