Now Hiring: Advertising Sales Learn more about careers with us!

Tourism

One Year After Pandemic Plunge, Hotel Tax Revenues May Set Record

tourism bounced back in 2021 toward record-setting 2019 totals

Tom Giffey, photos by Andrea Paulseth |

SWEET DREAMS. More visitors found their way to Eau Claire's hotel rooms, like this one at The Lismore, in 2021, according to room tax data from Visit Eau Claire.
SWEET DREAMS. More visitors found their way to Eau Claire's hotel rooms, like this one at The Lismore, in 2021, according to room tax data from Visit Eau Claire.

The Eau Claire area’s tourist economy has bounced back from the depths of the COVID-19 lockdown and appears on track to break a record in a key measure in 2021, the region’s tourism promotion agency says.

Hotel room tax revenues in Eau Claire set a record in 2019, then nose-dived in 2020, but have bounced back in 2021, Visit Eau Claire announced recently. In the third quarter, for example, room taxes in the City of Eau Claire exceeded the total collected in the same quarter of 2019 by 16.3%, the tourism group reported. Similarly, as of October, room tax receipts had exceeded 2019 totals for five months in a row. In July alone, room taxes exceeded the July 2019 level by 27%.

“The Chippewa Valley has shown a tremendous ability to bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic and the interest in traveling to the region has never been greater,” Executive Director Benny Anderson said. “2019 was a record year for most of the cities in the area, so the fact that our numbers this year are beating that benchmark is incredible news.” 

The Chippewa Valley has shown a tremendous ability to bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic and the interest in traveling to the region has never been greater.

BENNY ANDERSON

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, VISIT EAU CLAIRE

Through the end of October, room tax revenues were up 1.4% over the same period in 2019. While that might not seem like much, it’s worth noting that room tax revenue had fallen by 44% during the same period in 2020.

In an interview, Anderson said that the big reason that Eau Claires numbers have bounced back is the return of leisure travelers to the area in 2021. While meetings and other large gatherings haven’t returned, people are traveling for pleasure, he said.

In fact, he noted, the fact that Eau Claire doesn’t have a convention center has probably insulated the area from the even more severe financial impact the pandemic had on tourism-related business in other regions.

For years, room tax revenue in the City of Eau Claire totaled about $2 million annually, peaking in 2019 at $2.02 million. The total plunged 44% to $1.13 million in 2020, but seems set to bounce back in 2021, exceeding earlier estimates: Anderson said Visit Eau Claire projected receipts would be 30% below normal in 2021 and 15% below normal in 2022.

As it stands now, depending on the amount of room taxes collected at city hotels in November and December, the annual total could easily top the 2019 record.

Visit Eau Claire typically receives 70% of the room taxes collected by the City of Eau Claire. (The rest of the money helps support other city budget items, like Fairfax Pool, Hobbs Ice Center, and parks projects.) The organization also receives a share of the room taxes collected in the cities of Altoona and Osseo and the Town of Union.

Learn more about Visit Eau Claire at visiteauclaire.com.


16.3%

Increase in City of Eau Claire hotel room tax receipts between the third quarter of 2019 and the third quarter of 2021. These figures are seen as an indicator of the health of the local tourism economy.

$1,775,479

Total amount of room taxes collected in the City of Eau Claire between January and October 2021. This is 1.4% higher than during the same period of 2019, a record-setting year.

5

As of October, months in a row by which Eau Claire’s room tax receipts had beaten the same month in 2019.