Tourism is vital to local economies
Members representing organizations in Lake Almanor, Indian Valley, Feather River Canyon, Quincy and Lassen Volcanic National Park recently attended the annual “Tourism Summit” held by the Shasta-Cascade Wonderland Association (SCWA) in Redding.
The focus of the summit was the vital role tourism dollars play in the economy of an area; reports and data on local, regional, state and national tourism marketing; and best practices in marketing efforts.
Many of those attending said the most important take-away from the summit was that in order to partner with state and national tourism marketing funding opportunities, rural areas must have a destination marketing organization.
Past research indicates that areas without dedicated marketing efforts not only fall behind their competition, losing market share in a growing market; but once behind, it takes years to catch up.
Jeff Titcomb has been Plumas County’s representative on the Shasta-Cascade Wonderland Association board for many years.
During his tenure Titcomb has been instrumental in promoting several projects including a notable video showcasing Lake Almanor.
The video has played on the Visit California site and was part of SCWA social media campaigns.
Efforts for Plumas have been limited due to the inability of any single organization to fund the $2,500 “Premier Membership” so they can take a larger part in marketing efforts for the area.
Speakers at the Tourism Summit shared their experiences and successes promoting tourism in surrounding areas in Northern California. From left Kevin Sweeney said Lassen Volcanic National Park is considered part of the local tourism efforts. Tony Lyle from the Tahoe Visitors Authority shared similar obstacles and solutions about his area and Brian Deninger with Incredible Adventures in the Yosemite area also offered good information.
Funding for tourism development
The travel, recreation and tourism industry is a major economic generator in Plumas County and next to the government, the major regional employer.
During the years of the recession, the Plumas County Board of Supervisors decreased monetary support for travel and tourism efforts by the County Visitor Bureau and County Chambers of Commerce, and by 2012 funding had been essentially eliminated.
Over several succeeding years statewide statistics on travel spending in Plumas County reflect that the lack of promotion in the region resulted in a significant and consistent loss of tourism market share in Northern California.
Many rural areas soon discovered the need and pressure to invest in the travel and tourism market.
In order to grow or even sustain the economic engine of tourism has led to the development of Tourism Investment Districts (TID) that allow an assessment on lodging guests to be used for tourism projects and promotion.
The assessment dollars cannot be diverted to other government uses and must be spent to the benefit of its providers.
These TIDs become a stable source of funding for destination marketing organizations thereby offering access to other state and national funding.
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According to research cited in the U.S. Travel Association’s August 2018 report: Made in America: Travel’s Essential Contribution to Economic Development, “Destination marketing organizations become champions of rural regions, shining a spotlight on places that may be otherwise overlooked by visitors and invigorating economies of underserved areas.”
The conclusions of 10 years of research on the effects of TIDs, was reported in Tourism Improvement Districts: A National Study of Results (Civitas 2017) indicate that:
The region experiences significantly increased spending on lodging, food and beverages, with a related increase in job opportunities.
The increased direct spending on lodging, food and beverages creates indirect effects that impact the supply chain such as professional services and other local goods and services.
Additional economic benefits occur when a portion of the additional income earned is spent within that local economy again.
Feather River Tourism Association
Since Plumas County ceased stable funding for tourism development in 2012, the County has participated in sporadic funding of individual projects that have shown little measured return on the dollar.
During the past five years, groups of lodging providers across the county have been working to form a TID.
If passed, their organization, the Feather River Tourism Association (FRTA), will become the destination marketing organization representing Lake Almanor, Indian Valley, Feather River Canyon, Quincy and Bucks Lake.
Upon approval by the Plumas County Board of Supervisors to move forward with the concept, FRTA will continue working with Plumas County staff and local lodging providers to create the District in 2019.
The vision of the FRTA is to realize the full potential of these areas as a travel destination and to improve the economy of the area while preserving its natural resources.
In turn, an improved tourism economy will increase public funds through increased TOT and sales tax revenues.
The case for destination marketing
The members of the FRTA feel that the case for destination marketing is broad and compelling.
Across the country there are more than 500 regional destination marketing organizations with over 103 in California alone.
Tourism industry reports indicate that coordinated destination marketing is vital for several reasons:
1) The destination and the experience it offers is the fundamental motivator of tourism. As a result, the message to a potential traveler extends well beyond the offerings of a single business.
2) Scale and marketing infrastructure enhance marketing and promotional efficiencies, leveraging the impact of each marketing dollar.
3) In addition, destination marketing helps address challenges of a perishable tourism product and the seasonality of demand, which is an issue across all destinations, not just in Plumas County.
4) And finally, our competing destinations are actively marketing, such as our neighbors in Butte, Shasta, Siskiyou and Trinity counties, not to mention Tahoe.
The failure of our area to engage with travel markets has already resulted in lost market share that will take years to re-establish.