Tourists poured well over a billion dollars into Santa Monica’s economy last year. Now comes a marketing proposal aimed at boosting that figure – with no need for an up-front investment by the city.
The city council last week adopted a Resolution of Intent to create the needed framework, a Tourism Marketing District, or TMD.
Tourists themselves might pay for the project if hotels at the core of the plan tack a few dollars onto their guests’ bills. Or, the hotels (some are Santa Monica’s priciest) could absorb the costs, as they’ll reap a good chunk of the rewards.
The idea is championed by the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), which says such plans are in wide use, including in L.A., Long Beach and West Hollywood. They provide millions of dollars to help lure tourists and Santa Monica must keep pace, according to Misti Kerns, the CVB’s president/CEO.
Santa Monica’s TMD would work like this:
Hotels with average room rates of $100 or more (there are currently 30) would pay between two and four dollars per room/night to the new district, depending on whether their nightly rates were between $100-$200, $200-$300 or more than $300.
The result would be another $3.13 million annually to promote tourism, added to the $2.56 million the city provides the CVB. (Hotels provide $36 million a year to the city via the Transient Occupancy Tax). The CVB board would govern the TMD; an advisory committee would include representatives of assessed hotels. The assessments would rise over the five-year life of the project.
Councilman Kevin McKeown said CVB efforts already produce impressive results.
"The process we’re starting tonight will enable that work to be expanded without…additional budget commitment from the city," he said.
Some of the new money would let the CVB target untapped international markets such as Brazil, India and Mexico.
The idea is not necessarily to bring in more tourists, said the CBV’s Kerns, but to increase the amount they spend.
"(International tourists) stay longer, spend more money…and they tend not to drive because they’re used to using public transportation," Kerns told Patch.
"This is going to allow us to compete at a level that, quite frankly, we should've been competing at for quite some time," she added.
Before the TMD is created, public hearings will be held at the city council meetings of Nov. 13 and Dec. 11 for input from assessed hotels, other hotels and the public.
A recent tally shows the city had received written support for the TMD from hotel owners representing 80 percent of the assessments that would be paid, surpassing the legal minimum of 50 percent.
Some non-assessed hotels may question the need for the project, Kerns acknowledged.
"But I think they understand…that the trickle-down effect will work for them," she said.
The CVB wants to deliver a clear message of how Santa Monica’s attractions differ from other beach destinations in the state.
"We can’t sit back on our laurels," Kerns said. "We’ve got an incredible destination, but there are still pockets around the world that have no idea who we are or where we are."