As the state begins to reopen, city leaders are learning more about the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
According to new numbers released by the city of Fort Worth this week, the city’s net sales tax collections in March totaled more than $14 million. That is a $993,498 drop from last March or 6.5%.
“The new numbers suggest what we projected they would. Our estimate is we’ll be $35 to $40 million off for this year’s revenue for sales tax. We will manage that. The hardest-hit clearly is going to be our convention and visitors bureau, 'Visit Fort Worth', and our hotels because our hotel occupancy is way off too,” Mayor Betsy Price said Thursday.
“March was more of a partial month, so we didn’t see a full month’s downturn because we didn’t really issue our stay at home orders until March 13. We expect April to be harder hit, and May too.”
In Fort Worth, sales tax revenue makes up 22.4% of the city’s general fund budget. This is the second-largest revenue source, with property taxes being the largest. For the Crime Control and Prevention District, sales tax revenue represents the largest revenue source.
The projected drops are why Price stressed Thursday the importance of getting businesses back up and running, but “we do it responsibly”.
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On Thursday, the Fort Worth Herd announced a new attraction while the traditional twice-daily cattle drives in the Fort Worth Stockyards are on hiatus.
The “Herd Experience” are free 15-minute shows taking place at the top of the house from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, including Memorial Day.
Photos: Fort Worth Officials Eye New, ‘Responsible’ Ways to Kickstart Tourism as Revenue Dips
Mitch Whitten, executive vice president of marketing for Visit Fort Worth, said each session is reserved for up to 20 people.
“The great thing about the 'Herd Experience' is, you don’t have to touch anything – except your camera. From a distance, you can learn about the Old West,” Whitten said.
According to Whitten, half of the national hospitality workforce remains unemployed.
“In Fort Worth, traditionally, tourism delivers a $2.5 billion impact,” Whitten said. “Before COVID-19, the hospitality industry was 25,000 people strong. That’s like another American Airlines headquarters here. So, having a blow like COVID-19 has certainly been a big setback.”
He added, the 'Herd Experience' was a “baby step” in reigniting the tourism industry while also keeping safety a priority.
“People are ready to get out and walk around, they want to roam the Stockyards. They want to go sit on the patio and enjoy a meal with their family and we got to do it responsibly,” he said.
“The searches for hotel bookings in Fort Worth is up 50% over the last month. People are looking around. They want to know is it safe to travel? Is it clean? Is it well? I think they’ll find Fort Worth is a great option.”
Price echoed, pointing to Fort Worth as "a great destination for a drive."
"People who have been home and just want to go somewhere for the day, come to Stockyards. You can drive in from Wichita Falls or Lubbock or Amarillo and spend the day, not have to touch a lot, shop a little, eat some great western food," Price said.
According to Price, numbers from April sales tax collections will not be available until June.