Many in Telluride, including some of our leaders and would be leaders, seem to support the thinking that Telluride’s singular beauty, recreation opportunities and community character are sufficient for drawing visitors here no matter what. That is simply not the case, every day a score of local sales agents are working to assure we have visitors here. In an economic downturn, these efforts become the life blood of our community, and in the Town of Telluride this work is performed largely by vacation rental businesses.
Due to the same sort of voting and poor planning that has lead us to our affordable housing crisis, the town also has an insufficient number of hotels to accommodate the number of visitors we need for a healthy economy. Short-term rentals provide the needed accommodations to offset this need.
In the recession years of 2008-10, my locally owned short-term rental business, Elevation Vacations, experienced a loss of revenue averaging over 30 percent for each of those three years and losses totaling $190,000. Before the recession, we sold well over $2 million a year in vacation rentals. Other lodging businesses fared similarly.
The reality of managing the razor thin profit margin of vacation rental management businesses between the two sets of clients we serve is difficult to summarize here. However, I have calculated that the additional cost of remaining competitive to both owners and visitors in those years while carrying an additional 2.5 percent tax burden relative to competition would have added at least $30,000 to our losses in those years.
Under such circumstances, 2.5 percent is a factor in every deal made. If this tax is passed, Mountain Village accommodations immediately becomes a more desirable choice for the visitor and the commission-based sales agents they are consulting.
Even after weathering the dot com and post 9/11 downturns, robbing Peter to pay Paul during the last recession proved unsustainable for my business, we sold to a Boulder-based company. We were not the only local rental management business affected. ResortQuest was absorbed by another local business and Mountain Management also went out of business. I estimate at least 25 good local jobs were lost in these transitions.
I consider myself fortunate to still be able to live here. Many former partners, coworkers, colleagues and friends are, sadly, long gone. The people I hope will read this are those who have come since and want to understand how working people can make a life here.
In better times, like now, we have the luxury to question whether we have too many visitors. But, in the next downturn, when construction stops and real estate transactions are mostly foreclosures and short-sales, we must assure our local lodging businesses can still manage to bring us the visitors we all need to have any sort of economy.
Please recognize we are being asked, in 300, to decide whether the efforts of these businesses need our support or whether these efforts should be punitively taxed. Please vote no on Ballot Issue 300.