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Alexandria sales and meals taxes rebound, but hotel lodging still greatly diminished

New data from tax collection over the summer shows a minor rebound for sales and meals in Alexandria, but while it’s a positive sign, Mayor Justin Wilson cautioned that they don’t quite tell the full picture.

In March, local sales tax revenue reached a high of nearly $3 million. Since the start of the year, sales tax revenue has been higher than it was in those respective months the last two years, but the fact that COVID-19 seemed to have a negligible impact on sales last summer indicates that most of that is driven by online sales rather than local business, which Wilson confirmed.

“Sales tax strong,” Wilson wrote on Facebook, “but driven by online sales.”

The brighter news was for the restaurant industry, where meals tax revenue overshot even 2019’s numbers in both June and July. As of the end of August, the city had collected $2.6 million in meals tax revenue as compared to $2.3 last year, which had been boosted by a strong start to the year before those figures tanked in March and April.

But transient lodging tax figures remain abysmal: $776,805 total as compared to $312,598 last year. Regionally, hotels have faced an uphill battle toward recovery, with hotels around the region estimated to lose $2.3 billion in revenue this year.

Last year, Kendel Taylor, the city’s director of finance, warned that full economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic could be at least two years away. While the numbers are promising, Wilson warned there is still more work to do to get the city’s businesses back on track.

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