Compared to fiscal year 2018, the City of Council Bluffs lost $273,028 in hotel/motel taxes during the fourth quarter of the year (April 1 to June 30, 2019) which occurred during the Missouri River flooding. According to the Iowa Department of Revenue, the city collected $774,818 in hotel/motel taxes in those months while $1,047,846 was collected the year prior. This is the lowest amount of Council Bluffs hotel/motel taxes collected in the fourth quarter since 2011.

The loss can be attributed to the year’s flooding along the Missouri River which caused three months of temporary closures along I-29 from Missouri Valley, Iowa to St. Joseph, Missouri from mid-March to mid-June. While the interstate was fully reopened on May 18 from the March flooding, a second round of flooding at the end of the month closed it once more until June 18. While stretches of the interstate were open around Council Bluffs, many travelers coming from the north or south were unable to easily travel to the area leading to the loss in hotel/motel stays.

“We didn’t realize the full extent of how the flooding affected the city’s travel economy until we saw the revenue report.” Mark Eckman, executive director of the Council Bluffs Convention and Visitors Bureau said. “We expected a decreased number of visitors but not to this extent.”

Council Bluffs was not the only river city affected. The Iowa Department of Revenue report shows that eastern Iowa cities along the Mississippi River — which also flooded — like Waterloo and Dubuque also lost revenue during the fourth quarter compared to the year prior. The river city of Davenport lost $93,269 in hotel/motel taxes that quarter compared to fiscal year 2018.  

Looking at the full fiscal year, the City of Council Bluffs lost $257,959 compared to fiscal 2018. Increased hotel/motel tax collections in the summer of 2018 and the winter of 2019 before the flooding were able to compensate for some of the loss during the fourth quarter.

“While it’s disappointing to see a decrease in hotel/motel tax revenue this year, the loss serves as a reminder of how vital Interstate 29 is for travel and tourism and how much visitors contribute to the city’s revenue,” Eckman said.

This post was originally published on September 12, 2019 on the Unleash Council Bluffs blog.