TCBC Opposing a cap or reduction in funding going to Visit Tuolumne County (VTC)

TCBC submits letter to Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors opposing a cap or reduction in funding going to Visit Tuolumne County (VTC).  Below is text from the letter sent to Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors.  The original PDF can be downloaded by clicking here.

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Dear BOS Chair Campbell and Board Members

The Tuolumne County Business Council (TCBC) is opposed to the County budget proposal to cap or restrict the percentage of Visit Tuolumne County  (VTC) Transit Occupancy Tax (TOT) funding. We understand the County has budget constraints and needs to close an approximate 1.5 million budget deficit however, limiting marketing dollars needed for our county tourism industry as we all work to recover from the COVID pandemic is not a desirable solution. The revisions would result in a significant reduction in the VTC budget that is currently funded with 25% of the monies collected by the tourism industry while the County retains 75%.

There are several reasons that TCBC is opposed to a cap or reduction of the 25% of the total TOT funds collected for marketing allocation to Visit Tuolumne County. These are:

  • Tourists have many options for trips and vacations and there are many areas vying for tourists as our County and many other areas emerge from COVID restrictions. TOT is generated by tourists utilizing room nights in Tuolumne County. Historical travel to Yosemite National Park has shown approximately 25% travel through Tuolumne County and the balance of the four to five million yearly tourists travel through Mariposa and the other two gates. Tuolumne Traffic has been increasing because of both the domestic and international marketing efforts of VTC. Yosemite Mariposa County Tourism Bureau currently has five fulltime staff with a reduced COVID impacted budget this year of approximately $1.6million but pre-covid they anticipated budgeting about $2.4million. VTCs primary focus is to raise awareness of Tuolumne County as a trip and vacation destination and generate room nights during the shoulder seasons and offseason.
  • The County projects funding $1.5 million to VTC this year. That means the remaining $4.5 million (plus the addition of 75% of the voter approved increase of 20% to the TOT effective July 1, 2021) will go into the County General Fund for the County to use for tourism related services (police, fire, rescue, roads etc.) or other services. The County has recently stated they want to retain the full voter approved 20% TOT increase (from 10% to 12%) which is not in conformance with the intent of the current agreement that runs through June 2022. If the County does not allocate any of the additional 20% it will change the total TOT ratio to be County at 79.2% and TCVB will be 20.8%. The County should want VTC to attract more tourists and generate more revenue to then apply to additional marketing programs because then the County gets the lion share of any increase to use for other services. VTC has a very well thought out marketing plan that is tiered to go after additional markets as additional TOT dollars become available.
  • VTC receives a percentage of TOT and not a flat rate, therefore VTC has already experienced a significant COVID shutdown decrease in funding in 2020 that has partially carried over into 2021 . To further decrease or cap funding would be devastating to VTC’s recovery marketing efforts and will ripple through to TC’s tourism and general economy which will continue to impact funding for services the County provides to its residents.
  • Pre COVID, VTC’s track record proved that VTC plays a significant economic recovery role following a major crisis. The current COVID crisis is bigger  than any we have faced and recovery will have more competition from other destinations making it imperative we maintain a fluid strategic marketing plan. This is not a short-term recovery effort and VTC needs to be able to rely on funding as our County and local businesses work through an extended recovery period.
  • VTC’s percentage is an incentive and has proven positive returns year over year. Putting a cap or restrictions on TOT funds invested into VTC stifles ROI and future growth of those funds. In addition to TOT, the Tourism Visitor Economy includes/provides additional travel spending and sales tax revenues.
  • The investment of TOT funds to VTC is a revenue generator that results in a high rate of return for the County General Fund that supports things such as public safety, libraries and recreation.
  • Because of the past support efforts of the Tuolumne County Lodging Association, TOT increased from 6% to 8% and in 2012 from 8% to 10%. Because of TCLA’s leadership in heading the campaign an Agreement with the County and the City of Sonora was made that the Tuolumne County Visitors Bureau (now VTC) would receive 25% of the generated TOT.
  • COVID will not be the only crisis and future crisis recovery will need to be addressed and funded. We have the potential for many challenges (Wildfire, Public Safety Power Shutoffs, another covid outbreak, government shutdowns,
    etc.)

We believe that capping or restricting the percentage of Visit Tuolumne County (VTC) market funding is short-sighted and will result in much greater revenue impacts for the County in the long run when TOT and sales tax dollars derived from travel spending ($273 million in traveling spending in 2019) do not rebound as quickly or to desired levels. The existing 25% of TOT for VTC is the only item on the County’s list of proposed funding alternatives that provides a significant Return on Investment with very little effort by the County. It is for these reasons that TCBC must OPPOSE the County budget proposal to cap or restrict TOT funding for Visit Tuolumne County.

Sincerely,
Tuolumne County Business Council

Board of Directors
Jeff Kerns
Ron Kopf
Dana Mayo
Justin Myers
Tom Nankival
John Salkowski
Mark Steichen
Malaina Taylor
Sam Wheeler
Lyn Wilson
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