Goleta has done little to officially lure visitors in recent years but that could be about to change. New hotels have opened and others are in the pipeline. Tourism income will soon be the largest source of revenue for the now 10-year-old city. What’s more, Goleta voters in November overwhelmingly approved an increase in the transient-occupancy tax, often known as a hotel bed tax.
Last week, Goleta Valley chamber president and CEO Kristen Miller asked the City Council to invest $150,000 of its Tourism Business Improvement District (TBID) funds to create a Goleta street map and an in-market visitor services brochure, and for branding and marketing of the city. With the funding, the chamber would assume responsibility for the services.
Miller made the request at a special board meeting of the council, which convened Jan. 28 to discuss the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 fiscal-year budgets. Council members had little discussion of the proposal and no action was taken.
Before Goleta’s incorporation in 2002, Santa Barbara County contracted with the Goleta Valley chamber to provide economic development services, but reduced its support afterward. Miller said the new city initially contracted with the chamber for $25,000 worth of promotional services but gradually cut that amount until the funding was eliminated entirely in 2009.
She said the city currently has a TBID made up largely of a self-imposed tax by Goleta hotels. The hotels contribute an estimated $340,000 of the district’s annual $1.8 million budget, and Miller said the chamber receives $25,000 of it to reinvest in visitor services.
She emphasized that now is the time to contribute TBID funds to the chamber because of tourism’s financial impact and the 66-year-old organization’s consumer services experience.
“We think it’s really the right time,” Miller told Noozhawk. “We don’t go in front of the City Council lightly. We think we’re ready to invest in a growth area. We do see this as a long-term partnership.”
In the long term, the chamber will continue working with UC Santa Barbara and hopes to establish a visitor center in the future, she said.
A number of business leaders spoke in support of the chamber’s proposal, including hotel managers who want to make sure Goleta sends potential visitors the correct, unified welcoming message so that they’ll return.
Miller said she hasn’t gotten a definite answer from the city, but she hopes to receive at least a portion of the requested funds in the near future.