By Daniel Mintz
The local tourism industry saw growth in 2012 and funding from a recently-launched Tourism Business Improvement District will pay for a new marketing effort.
Staff of the county’s Convention and Visitors Bureau described moderate growth of hotel room occupancy, room rates and Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) collection rates at the Jan. 29 Board of Supervisors meeting.
Hotel room bookings are used as a gauge for tourism and Tony Smithers, the bureau’s executive director, said the county’s room occupancy rate grew by 3.8 percent in the 2012 fiscal year, which is about the same as the statewide level. Average room price rates only grew by 1.7 percent, far less than the state’s six percent rate.
The revenue per available room rate, which blends total number of rooms, occupancy levels and the average price, increased 5.6 percent. Smithers said that overall, the county’s hospitality industry grew by 7.8 percent, a “fantastic result” considering that the county “never had the dip that a lot of other destinations had during the recession” and isn’t making up for lost ground.
The county’s TOT or hotel bed tax revenue grew by 6.5 percent, Smithers continued. “This is the number to keep watching,” he said. “As long as that number keeps going up, I’m assuming you’re going to be happy.”
The county contributes a share of TOT funding to the bureau and a three-year contract is up for renewal this year. The Tourism Business Improvement District includes cities and the county and will become active this year with the launch of what Smithers described as a “comprehensive marketing plan.”
One million dollars is expected to be collected through a district-wide room rate fee and Smithers said $500,000 of it will fund the marketing plan. Another $250,000 will fund community-specific efforts.
The district will be managed by a 19-member board of directors in a non-profit agency called the Humboldt Lodging Alliance. Asked how the alliance will approach new marketing, Smithers said, “We’re going to start with some professional research, we’re engaging in hiring a marketing firm that’s going to really have a look at our brand and where we stand in the marketplace.”
From there, “We’ll go on to new advertising campaigns,” Smithers continued, with an eye on “what we need to do to get the best bang for the buck.”