Photo from the Iowa Great Lakes Association website.

Tourism traffic in the Iowa Great Lakes area appears to have rebounded this spring, compared to the second quarter of 2020.

Hotel/motel taxes for the city of Arnolds Park this April, May and June were 52% higher than the same period a year ago. Milford saw a 31%  increase in hotel/motel tax payments this spring compared to last spring. Rebecca Peters, director of Okoboji Tourism, says she wasn’t surprised by the rebound.

“All of our indicators throughout the entire summer and leading up to the summer showed that our businesses were going to have a great season and that we were going to see a big influx of visitors this year,” she says, “so it was nice to see that that all came true.”

The City of Okoboji’s hotel/motel tax revenue for this April, May and June was up 37% from the spring of 2020, however, it’s a few thousand dollars short of the amount collected in the pre-pandemic spring of 2019. Spirit Lake was the only city in corridor to collect more in hotel/motel taxes in the pandemic spring of 2020 compared to 2019.

Peters says some of the hotel/motel tax revenue collected by cities surrounding the Great Lakes is used to promote tourism in the area. “But also a lot of the hotel/motel tax revenue goes right back into the city’s general budget so that it can be used for infrastructure to improve our parks, to improve our streets, to help support our police and fire departments,” she says, “so really that money that comes from a lot of our visitors really helps the whole community just thrive.”

At least half of the hotel/motel taxes collected in Arnolds Park are to be used to build, repair, or enlarge recreational, convention, cultural or entertainment facilities.

(By George Bower, KICD, Spencer)