AURORA | Tourism in Aurora may boom over the next five years by adding more amenities to sports facilities and attracting medical tourists, but only if Aurora’s sole marketing bureau can increase its budget to $1 million by 2020, the city council heard Monday. The council reviewed adding hotel fees and even a future ballot question to increase the city’s lodging tax as ways to make up the money for Visit Aurora.
Visit Aurora’s 5-year plan includes marketing the city’s hotel rooms to visitors. But the plan says the organization will need more than one sales representative to sell larger projects like the Gaylord hotel and the Hyatt Hotel and conference center coming this spring. Visit Aurora has four full-time employees.
This year, the city raised Visit Aurora’s share of the city lodger’s tax from 10 percent to 12.5 percent to increase Visit Aurora’s budget, which is $600,000 for 2014. Gary Wheat, president of Visit Aurora, said the city’s tax rate of 12.75 percent is still lower than Denver’s tax, which is 14.5 percent.
“When we’re discussing room fees and a lodger’s tax increase, that has the potential to assist projects for more tourism,” he said.
Wheat also discussed the possibility for a new year-round sports field house that would be over 120,000 square feet and that would allow for 30 competitions annually. He said the project would help local hotels with the problem of retaining visitors on the weekends, and would solidify Aurora’s reputation as a sports destination without infringing on residents using existing community centers.
Wheat did not specify a cost for the fieldhouse. “We’re in a research mode, and we’re moving forward,” he said.
Wheat also said Visit Aurora will expand its medical tourism program, Visit Aurora, M.D., that matches patients with specialists at the Anschutz Medical Center. He pointed to the 26,000 visitors to this section of the website in its first year online who came from Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and California.
“With the Veterans Affairs Hospital coming on board, that puts us even more in the light as a destination for health care visitors,” he said.
Council members gave unanimous preliminary approval to Javon Mays becoming the city’s first poet. Mays, a local artist who graduated from Smoky Hill High School, Mays is a national slam poetry award winner and a member of Denver’s Slam Nuba team. He also runs Your Writing Counts, a poetry program for elementary, middle and high school students throughout metro Denver.
If chosen, Mays will serve as Aurora Poet Laureate for two years, and will receive a stipend of $500 to $1,000 for the entire year. Duties will include public readings, leading literacy and creative writing programs in public schools and penning original verses about the city.
The Aurora Public Library Board recommended two people for role. Dominique Sample, an Aurora poet who is a staff member of the Denver-based youth arts organization Minor Disturbance, was the board’s second choice.
Adam Goldstein contributed to this report.