Duluth Mayor Emily Larson has announced her recommendations for 2019 Tourism Tax allocations.
Half of the roughly $11.9 million generated through tourism tax collections are legally assigned for allocation through specific legislation, including the DECC, Spirit Mountain and the St. Louis River Corridor, Larson's office said in a prepared statement. The remaining dollars, however, bring some discretion as long as their investment meets legal criteria for benefitting tourism.
For those remaining dollars, Mayor Larson continued what she began last year in requiring tourism tax recipients to apply for funding and make their case for public investment.
“As our tourism economy continues to grow, so does the task to ensure that we are investing these financial resources wisely, transparently and with a positive visitor experience in mind," she said. "Having a robust tourism sector of this magnitude means having world-class attractions, museums and recreational experiences year round for our residents, too. For these reasons and more, it’s critical we are good stewards of these investments.”
This is the second year in which the city instituted an application process for tourism tax allocations. All applicants were asked to apply for funds, submit budgets, answer a series of questions and report on previous tourism tax funding levels and uses. This process was implemented with the intent to provide greater accountability, transparency, and process to a significant source of public funding, Larson said.
As a way to ensure public benefit for public investment, last year Larson required all tourism tax-funded entities to honor our local community’s co-investment of food and beverage taxes to support the tourism economy. During 2018, more than 15,000 Duluth residents from across the city benefitted from these “Community Day” events with free admission to attractions and funded programs.
“Making sure our residents benefit from these investments is really important to me,” said Larson.
Community Day is a requirement for tourism tax allocation for 2019.
At the city’s request, as a part of their 2018 tourism tax allocation, Visit Duluth led the effort to coordinate a “City-wide Pass” for attractions. In October of this year, the Duluth Discount Pass launched, providing three day and annual options that can save up to 50% on the price of admissions.
“This pass offers significant savings off admission to eight of Duluth’s most popular attractions and is available for visitors and residents alike. It’s been very well received and Visit Duluth is working to expand the number of featured attractions in 2019,” said Anna Tanski, president/CEO of Visit Duluth.
The appropriations include:
* DECC Improvement Refunding Bonds (AMSOIL Arena) - $33,440,000
* Tourism Tax Revenue Bonds (St Louis River Corridor) - $18,000,000
* Spirit Mountain Tax Abatement Bonds (Grand Avenue Chalet & Improvements) - $7,055,000
* Minnesota Slip Bridge Interfund Loan - $2,200,000
* Promotion and Publicity 3% Hotel/Motel Tax Mandate
All of the agencies are past recipients with the exception of the Duluth Children’s Museum and Hawk’s Ridge Bird Observatory. The recommendations will be reviewed at the December 10 City Council meeting.