Tourism-related tax revenues rose slightly for the city of Ashland last fiscal year, preliminary numbers show.

Tourism-related tax revenues rose slightly for the city of Ashland last fiscal year, preliminary numbers show.

Although the city's annual report has yet to be released because it is awaiting audit, revenue from the city's food and beverage tax and transient occupancy tax each rose about 2 percent compared to the previous year, said Lee Tuneberg, the city's administrative services and finance director.

Revenue from the city's food and beverage tax, also known as the meals tax, rose 2.1 percent — or by $42,459 — during the fiscal year that ended on June 30. The transient occupancy tax, otherwise known as the hotel tax, rose 2 percent — or by $38,354 — during the same span.

"Is it stellar? No," said Tuneberg. "But it's always nice to see a moderate increase, and I think it shows stability."

The city brought in $2,021,847 from the meals tax and $1,917,680 from the hotel tax during the fiscal year.

About 20 percent of revenue from the city's meals tax goes to pay for open space in Ashland. The rest goes to pay the city's debt on its wastewater-treatment system.

Tourism-related groups, such as the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the Ashland Chamber of Commerce, receive 70 percent of the hotel tax revenue. The remaining amount goes to city programs and public safety divisions, such as the police and fire departments.

Last year's increases are a good indication that the city's tourism industry may be climbing out of a multi-year lull, which was attributed mostly to the national recession. In the 2009-10 fiscal year, both categories had about a 6 percent revenue increase after falling short during the previous two years.

Tuneberg said last year's revenue increase from the hotel tax was a pleasant surprise for the city, which didn't expect to see a rise. The 2.1 percent revenue increase from the meals tax, however, fell short of the city's expected 3 percent increase.

Next year, the city isn't expecting a revenue increase from the hotel tax but is again expecting revenue from the meals tax to rise about 3 percent, Tuneberg said. That means the city will need at least a 5 percent revenue increase from the meals tax to even out the budget from last year's shortfall.

"In general, a 2 percent increase is a good sign in an economy like this," Tuneberg said. "There are a lot of communities that are far worse off than us "… but we're going to have a little making up to do next year."

Tuneberg said because the revenue increases from last year are consistent with each other, it's a possible indication of growth within the industry.

"It's definitely coming around better than a few years ago," said Jennifer Burkett, general manager of Ashland's Windmill Inn. "It's not back to where we'd like to see it, of course."

Burkett said the hotel's business seems to be picking up this month, compared to the beginning of the summer, and that it isn't going to fall short of breaking even — but just barely.

"So far we're staying on track, so that's nice to see," she said. "Really it's running about the same as last year "… travel hasn't picked up a lot, and we're hopeful it will by the end of the summer."

Reach Ashland Daily Tidings reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email swheeler@dailytidings.com.