Thursday, June 21 , 2018, 8:28 pm | Fair 61º




Santa Maria Aims To Boost Tourism With New Business Improvement District

City Council is considering 2-percent fee on hotel and motel rooms to fund tourism promotion district

Jean-luc Garon, general manager of The Historic Santa Maria Inn, has been one of advocates of the formation of a Santa Maria Tourism Improvement District too boost marketing to attract more tourists.
Jean-luc Garon, general manager of The Historic Santa Maria Inn, has been one of advocates of the formation of a Santa Maria Tourism Improvement District too boost marketing to attract more tourists.          (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Santa Maria could soon have a new tool to attract more tourists.

The City Council on Tuesday night accepted comments either for or against the formation of a Santa Maria Tourism Improvement District.

The district would add a 2-percent fee on each motel or hotel room, collecting approximately $600,000 annually to market Santa Maria as a tourist, meeting and event destination, officials said.

Hotel representatives urged the City Council to support the district’s formation to put Santa Maria in a strong position to bring more tourists to town.

“I believe that it’s the perfect tool to work with the city to showcase Santa Maria and bring more people in our town,” said Jean-luc Garon, general manager of The Historic Santa Maria Inn.

More tourists will mean more guests staying overnight at hotels, eating at restaurants, visiting wineries, using gas stations and shopping in local stores, all leading to a boost in sales tax revenue for the city, he added.

JP Patel, who owns Fairfield Inn & Suites Santa Maria, said he had supported tourism business improvement districts for years in San Luis Obispo County. 

“It will enhance the ability of the city to promote itself in ways not imaginable before,” Patel said.

“With the funding that’s available and the marketing resources that we will have will generate significant returns in sales taxes back to the city.”

Another opportunity for comments will come during a City Council meeting scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Jan. 19 at City Hall. 

After hearing more comments on Jan. 19, the council will consider adopting a resolution to form the tourism improvement district.

However, if 50 percent or more of the lodging businesses file written protests, the council is barred from approving the district.

Many other local cities including Pismo Beach, Atascadero, Paso Robles, Lompoc, Buellton, Solvang and Santa Barbara already have tourism business improvement districts.

“Paso Robles has had one since 2008 and with the money collected they were able to promote Paso Robles and significantly increase tourism to their town,” Garon said.

In the seven years Patel has been involved in similar efforts in other cities, he said they led to a boost in guests even during the recession

The Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitor & Convention Bureau will manage the district. Consultants have already met with hotels and attractions to craft a marketing strategy to launch once the district is formed.

Most the marketing will highlight all the reasons people should come to Santa Maria, not focusing on any getting them to stay at a specific hotel, Chamber officials said.

Councilwoman Etta Waterfield asked how the district is different from the chamber’s current mission. 

“We’ll simply have more resources to be able to sustain campaigns, and to extend them into new markets,” said Glenn Morris, Chamber of Commerce president and chief executive officer.

Current funding is used for visitor services, supporting groups that come to Santa Maria, and marketing for specific events, such as the Santa Maria Elks Rodeo and Santa Barbara County Fair.

“What we hope the new resources will allow us to do, in addition to just increasing frequency and scope, is to push that into new markets. Get into Southern California, Northern California, other states — that’s the expectation,” Morris said.

The tourism improvement district is separate from the transient occupancy tax already tacked onto hotel room costs.

In 2012, a California Travel Association study said tourism improvement districts generated $5.50 in tax revenues for each dollar spent on tourism marketing.

If ultimately approved, the Santa Maria Tourism Improvement District would begin Feb. 1 and will have a five-year life. At the end of the five years, the district could be renewed.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >

Meet Your Realtor Sponsored by Village Properties

Photo of John Sener
John Sener
"I am known for tenacity, diligence, honesty, and sound decision making with the ultimate goal of closing every transaction to the satisfaction of all involved parties."

Full Profile >