Lake area revenues looking up

Osage Beach experiences best sales tax revenues since recession

Lake of the Ozarks businesses saw a slow start in visitors to the Lake in the early part of the 2013 season, increasing in tourism through the months of June and July. However, one city saw its best initial sales tax revenues since 2008.

According to Osage Beach City Administrator Nancy Viselli, to date through August returns, which means revenues received in June from the city’s 1 percent sales tax, the city of Osage Beach has $31,940 more in sales tax revenues in 2013 than 2012. That’s a 1.2 percent increase. She said comparing the August 2013 returns with the August 2012 returns, there is $39,492 more, which is a 12.8 percent increase.

“Year-to-date this is our best year since 2008. For ‘August,’ this is the best August ever, going back 10 years,” she said. “We should get our July sales, which we call ‘September,’ by (this week) and hopefully this upward trend continues.”

Viselli said the timing of the city’s receipt of the 1 percent sales tax is two months after the purchase made by the consumer. For example, January receipts correspond to tax month November, in which the consumer makes purchases in November, the merchant remits sales tax in December to the state of Missouri and the state remits sales tax to the City of Osage Beach in January.

Viselli said the city’s best years in overall sales tax revenues were 2007 at $4,753,341, followed closely by 2006 at $4,750,233. In 2008, the total actual sales tax revenues dropped to $4,254,145,

followed by gradual decrease in 2010 at $4,204,070. In 2012, the city’s actual sale tax revenues increased to $4,345,420. So far in 2013 through August returns, Viselli said the actual sales tax revenues total $2,628,706.

Viselli shared projections for 2013 sales tax revenues. For September returns, they estimated $683,550 with a total for the year at $4,500,000. She said the City of Osage Beach has budgeted more in revenue than what the city actually took in for its sales tax from the state, and the city’s budgets were also way under what the city budgeted to spend. For example, in 2012, the city budgeted to spend $4,275,000 and received $4,345,420 in actual sales tax revenues.

“Actually in 2011 and 2012, we took in more than we budgeted to receive — obviously we were being ‘conservative’ — which is the name of the game these days,” she said.

The lake’s lodging industry also saw gradual improvements from its tax collections, as well. According to Tri-County Lodging Association (TCLA) administrator Jim Divincen, the lodging tax collections from the fiscal year 2013 (July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2013) were slightly ahead of the previous year.

“(Visitor) inquiries continue to decline; however, website visits to Funlake.com have been very healthy,” Divincen said.

Tim Jacobsen, executive director for the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitor Bureau (CVB), said in comparison with last year, the 2013 season started a little slower in April and May due to weather but picked up in summer’s peak months.

“June visitation increased and July visitation was good for most businesses,” Jacobsen said.

Heather Brown, CVB marketing and membership director, said the members she has spoken with said they had a good 2013 summer season with better shoulder season business projected this year over 2012.

“Some even said they had record numbers and that their September and October months are looking better than normal,” she said. “The early school start date continues to affect the August family traveler.”

Even though the TCLA/CVB’s research component that tracks activities and overall visitor numbers won’t be completed until November, Jacobsen and Divincen said shopping and boating still are top activities.

“Shopping is always an activity that visitors enjoy at the Lake and the shopping opportunities continue on the economic development side with additional corporate and independent business that have opened at the Lake over the past year,” Jacobsen said. “Boating has also seen an increase and the rental companies are reporting more weeklong or multiple day rentals.”

Divincen shared 2012 summer season research, showing 70 percent of visitors came to the Lake Area for a vacation or getaway, 6 percent came for boating activities, 6 percent came to visit family and friends and 6 percent attended a special event.

The most popular activities in 2012 included: shopping at 71 percent; boating, 45 percent; visiting a state park, 42 percent; fishing, 37 percent; mini-golf, 18 percent; music shows, 17 percent; special events, 14 percent; go-carts, 13 percent; show caves, 12 percent; golf, 9 percent; fireworks, 9 percent; spa activities, 8 percent; and Big Surf Water Park, 5 percent.

The 54 Expressway still has caused some issues with navigation of tourists and visitors to the Lake Area, and also affected consumer consumption on Osage Beach’s west end business district. However, both Divincen and Jacobsen said they feel the new 54 Expressway has relieved traffic congestion through the Lake’s peak tourist season.

“The new Expressway on/off access will still take some time for our visitors to understand and navigate,” Divincen said. “It’s definitely helped relieve the previous traffic congestion issues during heavy check out periods.”

“The new expressway has relieved much of the congestion that the Lake has experienced over the years, especially through the Osage Beach Corridor. There have been some businesses on the west side of the Grand Glaize Bridge that it has negatively affected their businesses, but overall the expressway is a good economic driver for continued growth in the Lake Area,” Jacobsen added.

In helping to promote Lake of the Ozarks, Divincen said TCLA continues to invest in off-season magazine and newspaper publications in its multi-state region. He said Funlake.com is receiving a substantial upgrade and the organization’s staff continues to invest in search engine marketing (SEM) with Google, Bing and Yahoo.

“The SEM results are very efficient with a strong ROI and have been outstanding in terms of cost per click and converting visitors into revenues,” he said.

Divincen said the TCLA also continues to receive invaluable editorial coverage through its public relations efforts, which hosts travel, sports, outdoors, golf writers to the Lake Area destination.

“The TCLA board continues to assist in the promotion and advertising for special events and festivals during the off-season business cycle.”

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