Resorts should join forces to help pay for marketing

Dan McDonald
Staff Writer
7/6/2011

Sometimes my job can be tough.

Maybe that is because I actually have two of them: Reporter by day; small-business owner by night and on weekends.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m having a blast reporting the county’s news. And I equally enjoy building campfires and tracking down extra toasters, pillows and wine glasses for my guests at Camp Layman.

The tough part is right now I’m suffering from a major case of conflict of interest.

It’s this whole county budget mess.

Reporter Dan: The fact is the county’s budget is being squeezed like never before.

Our Board of Supervisors is facing agonizing choices about how to get by on less.

They are making cuts all over the place. They have to.

Business Dan: What? The county completely cut funding for the visitors bureau and the chambers of commerce?

You’ve got to be kidding me.

The visitors bureau’s website (plumascounty.org) alone is responsible for 42 percent of the traffic to camplayman.com.

And the Eastern Plumas Chamber has been invaluable with their advice and assistance.

This could be bad for business.

Really bad.

Reporter Dan: Would you like a slab of cheese to go with that whine?

Everyone in the county is going to take their financial lumps this year.

County employees are staring at pay cuts. And be thankful you don’t work at the visitors bureau.

Business Dan: That’s my point. We need the visitors bureau. Tourism is Plumas County’s second-biggest industry.

Lodging providers like myself rely on the bureau’s and chambers’ marketing to bring vacationers to the county.

Reporter Dan: You really think people will stop vacationing in Plumas County without being prodded by the chamber and visitors bureau?

Why should county taxes be used to pay for your advertising?

Do it yourself.

Business Dan: I do. But I can’t afford to market on a grand scale. I count on the chambers and visitors bureau to spread the word.

Besides, isn’t that what the 9-percent transient occupancy tax (TOT) I charge my guests is supposed to be used for?

Reporter Dan: No. The TOT revenue goes to the county’s general fund. In theory that money is used to pay for the services the county provides visitors: roads, police protection, clean water, that sort of thing.

Business Dan: Well then, what if we just raise the TOT by 2 percent and make sure that extra money goes to the chambers and the visitors bureau?

I’m pretty sure my guests wouldn’t mind paying an extra two bucks for a cabin. That’s cheaper than a glass of wine.

And that 9 percent we are charging is pretty low compared to the 15 percent TOT in places like Anaheim.

Reporter Dan: Good idea. But it’s not a new idea. I heard it discussed at the Board of Supervisors meeting a couple weeks ago. My butt is still numb from sitting through that meeting: six and a half hours!

Business Dan: I thought you said you liked your job?

Reporter Dan: Most of it …

Anyway, the problem with raising TOT is people would have to vote for an increase.

And it costs money to add stuff like that to the ballot, with no guarantee that it will pass.

Business Dan: Why wouldn’t it pass? It’s not a tax on county residents. The visitors who put their heads on my beds would foot the bill.

Reporter Dan: I agree with you. But some voters see the word “tax” on the ballot and vote “no” as a sort of gag reflex. I guess we can thank the tea party for that.

Business Dan: Hey, watch it. I’m a Republican.

Reporter Dan: So am I.

Actually, there is way to raise money that is sort of like a TOT, only better.

It’s called a TBID.

Business Dan: Stop with the acronyms already. Your paper uses way too many of them as it is.

Reporter Dan: Sorry. A TBID is a Tourism Business Improvement District. I’m just learning about it, actually. But a lot of cities in California are doing it.

It starts with lodging owners forming a sort of coalition and putting their own special tax initiative on the ballot.

The general public wouldn’t be allowed to vote on it, just the lodging providers who are affected.

All it would need is a simple majority approval to pass … And voilà … You have your extra two dollars per cabin.

The TBID, since it is literally taxing itself, could use that money for anything it chooses.

It could use some to fund a visitors bureau.

Business Dan: So then the county could spend its money on county stuff. And not have to worry about sales and marketing.

Reporter Dan: Now you get it. Great minds …

Hey, where are you going?

Business Dan: Sorry, gotta run.

My guests from San Francisco are asking for more wine glasses.

 


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