As summer comes to an end, Hailey retail businesses and restaurants are looking back on a busy season of commercial activity.
Mike McKenna, executive director of The Chamber-Hailey & the Wood River Valley, said it was a “very solid” summer for most local businesses.
“The big events to kick off and then culminate the summer season, the Fourth of July in Hailey and Wagon Days in Ketchum, saw some of the largest crowds ever,” McKenna said. “It was also really nice to have a smoke-free [no forest fires] August.”
Larry Green, the owner of L.L. Green’s Hardware in Hailey said his business was about the same as last year.
“It was a great summer, but short,” said Green, who sells garden supplies and plants in the early summer. “Nobody wants to get started on landscaping or home repairs until the weather straightens up. It seemed like we didn’t get started until almost the Fourth of July due to a long, rainy spring, and now it feels like fall out there.”
Sun Valley Brewery owner Sean Flynn said the summer was “pretty good but not too crazy.”
“What really can put us over the top are big events like the solar eclipse two years ago,” Flynn said. “That was a record-breaking summer.”
Hailey local option tax revenue, a good indication of tourist spending, was up in two of three categories for the months of June and July, compared to last year. Hailey City Treasurer Becky Stokes said the 1 percent restaurant food tax rose 6 percent for the period, while the 3 percent hotel and car rental receipts jumped 17 percent. The 2 percent alcoholic beverages LOT dropped, by 7 percent.
“Maybe people are renting Airbnbs and drinking at home,” Stokes mused.
The fiscal year-to-date LOT is up over last year. From Oct. 1, 2018, to Aug. 1 the city’s LOT rose in all three categories; 8 percent for hotel and car rentals, 10 percent for alcohol sales and 5 percent for food sales.
The city of Hailey took in a whopping $26,380 check from short-term rentals in April for the previous 14 months, thanks in part to the help of Host Compliance, a company geared toward helping cities collect short-term rental taxes.
Short-term rentals last less than 30 days and are often arranged online through companies like Airbnb.
Stokes said the short-term rental receipts have not yet been broken down month by month, but that the revenue is a welcome sign.
“Tourism appears to be very strong in Hailey,” she said.
According to data supplied by Airbnb, Blaine County users of the platform earned $2.5 million from 10,400 guest visits from May 24 through Sept. 2.
Air traffic at Friedman Memorial Airport helps supply the Wood River Valley with tourists and shoppers. Fly Sun Valley Alliance Director Carol Waller said the number of passengers from May through August dropped by 1 percent compared to the same period last year.
The drop was slight considering that the airport landed 3 percent fewer available seats this summer than last summer due to some changes in commercial services offered.
“There were no Portland flights and some of the planes used this past summer were 70-seat passenger jets instead of 76-seaters,” Waller said.
A “1 percent for air” local-option tax from Hailey, Ketchum and Sun Valley goes toward supporting air service to the valley, including the cost of minimum revenue guarantees to air service providers to assure regular flights.
As autumn begins and the pace of life slows in the Wood River Valley, some are working to keep the area on travelers’ radar.
“The Chamber is putting on a fall marketing push to invite more people from across the state and Rocky Mountain region to come discover all the Wood River Valley has to offer,” McKenna said. “We’re hoping to keep our business climate robust as the temperatures and leaves drop.”