Fort Madison, Keokuk, look for hotel-motel tax revenues to rebound after summer travel soars

FORT MADISON (WGEM) — After a tough year for tourism, cities across Southeast Iowa are now assessing the toll the pandemic has taken on their revenues as they hope for a better year this year.

Fort Madison city manager David Varley said in a regular year, the city’s hotel-motel tax would bring in roughly a quarter of a million dollars.

“It will be down 30 percent hotel-motel revenue,” he said. “That’s about $56,000 compared to last year.”

Keokuk is facing a similar situation.

City manager Cole O’Donnell said in 2019, the city’s hotel-motel tax generated $298,000 but only generated $150,000 in 2020.

“I’ve worked in hospitality for seven years and I’ve never seen a summer get that low in this area,” Hampton Inn general manager Heather Butcher said.

However, there is hope for a rebound. Varley said the outlook for the next year fiscal year, which starts July 1, is much improved.

“We do hear that things are going fairly well for the hotels and we hope they have a good year and that they’ll improve over the current year and recover well from the pandemic,” he said.

Butcher said with both business and leisure travel picking up they’re seeing more and more people coming through their doors.

“We have Nauvoo travel, we have weddings, we have people come in for family reunions, it’s always crazy in July and I’m hoping we see that craziness again this year because it has been a quiet last year,” she said.

Local businesses said they’re also looking forward to upcoming events like the Lee County Fair and Tri-State Rodeo.

“All the fairs and the festivals have opened back up again so we’re hoping to start seeing an increase toward the end of the month,” 10th Street Station co-owner David Taylor said.

It will be a busy summer in Lee County for events. The first of 31 cruise ships will dock in Fort Madison on July 31 while Rollin’ on the River will kick off in Keokuk on August 20th followed by the the Tri-State Rodeo September 8th through the 11th.

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