The Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitor & Convention Bureau reports a continued upward trend with increases in transient occupancy tax (TOT) revenues recorded for the past fiscal year in its 2011-12 Annual Report.
“Santa Maria’s transient occupancy tax receipts from the months of July 2011 through June 2012 indicate a modest increase over the previous year,” said Gina Keough, manager of the Santa Maria Valley Visitor & Convention Bureau. “TOT provides us with an accurate tracking tool, showing how tourism benefits the community. Contributors to this positive result include tourism-related businesses working individually and collectively with the VCB to support the growth of tourism and travel to our city.”
The City of Santa Maria’s TOT is assessed on hotel, motel and bed-and-breakfast occupancies at a rate of 10 percent. The ensuing revenues are directed to the municipal general fund, where they contribute to everything from public safety to recreation and parks to community development.
City TOT revenues for the past fiscal year finished at more than $2.4 million, an improvement of nearly 4 percent more than the previous fiscal year, which had also shown increases.
“The more TOT you’re collecting, the more impact you get from overnight visitation overall,” Keough said. “There’s an automatic residual effect on sales tax, because people are then buying more food and beverages, and they’re spending more time in the community shopping and enjoying our many other attractions.”
To encourage the residual effect, the VCB operates as a distribution center for information on local attractions. This includes providing complimentary brochures, maps and acting as a resource for email and phone requests as well as walk-in traffic at the VCB Visitor Center.
“This year our Group Services Department alone handled more than 100 inquiries from tour planners and provided nearly 3,000 complimentary ‘welcome bags’ to visiting organizations,” Keough said.
The VCB is also inviting local businesses to become Visitor Outreach Centers, meaning a business or organization that is willing to carry VCB Visitor Guides, maps and brochures.
“This designation is open to any entity that is willing to participate,” Keough said. “And the VCB is responsible for restocking the materials as needed.”
She added that more than 20 Visitor Outreach Centers exist locally, including truck stops, specialty shops, restaurants, schools, tasting rooms, apartment complexes and storage facilities.
Keough said the increases can be attributed to many things, including the VCB’s ongoing marketing, advertising and media relations programs as well as a rapport built with the group tour market at trade shows. The VCB also works closely with the California Travel and Tourism Commission and the Central Coast Tourism Council to increase awareness of Santa Maria Valley attractions.
“We strongly encourage local businesses and organizations to get involved, share their news with us and take advantage of the VCB’s promotional programs and leads,” Keough said. “Putting a unified and consistent message out about the Santa Maria Valley is our goal and purpose.”
For information about Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitor & Convention Bureau programs, membership and promotional opportunities, click here or call the commerce and convention bureau at 800.331.3779.
— Malei Weir is a publicist representing the Santa Maria Visitor & Convention Bureau.