Got an idea that will help attract overnight visitors to Cambria? The Cambria Tourism Board wants to know about it — especially if it’s in the so-called “shoulder season,” that period before and after the high seasons of summer and the holidays (roughly Novemberearly December, then January to May).
Thanks to establishment of a countywide Business Improvement District in 2009, there’s money available to prime the tourism pump.
The county business improvement district was set up by a county ordinance. Supervisors acted on a request by the county Visitors and Conference Bureau. Several of the county’s cities have their own such boards.
Tourism generates more than $1 billion annually in travel spending in the county, according to a 2009 study. It’s the largest county industry after agriculture.
What’s more, Cambria and San Simeon are the main drivers of the countywide revenue stream (non-incorporated, or outside city limits) for promoting tourism, accounting for more than 60 percent of its revenue.
The best part is the money is “free.” It’s all funded by 2 percent levy on visitors’ lodging bill. That’s on top of the county transient occupancy tax. Half goes to the county organization, half stays with local entity.
The money goes to promote tourism — or, in a more pungent formulation “to put more heads in beds,” thereby increasing overall revenue for the entire community.
And, we might add, enriching lives of locals as well.
What attracts people here is the beautiful landscape (e. g., the coastline), our history (e. g., Hearst Castle), our food and wine, our great array of lodging options, and the events we have here.
To the extent we share these with visitors, we have the opportunity to expand and enrich opportunities for everybody. It’s the proverbial win-win.
There’s money there to sow those seeds. In 2011, the assessment reaped over a million dollars. Half went to the countywide organization to use to promote countywide efforts to get word out to potential visitors.
Half stayed with the seven local organizations: Cambria, San Simeon, Avila Beach, Cayucos, Nipomo and Oceano, Los Osos and Morro Bay (outside city limits), and Arroyo Grande (outside city limits).
Each has its own local area advisory board. Each board is mostly made up of lodging owners or their representatives.
In 2011, Cambria brought in 43 percent of revenues, $282, 517. Number two? San Simeon, with $132,501, or 20 percent. Avila Beach was close behind with $122,273, or 19 percent.
The local Cambria Tourism Board has turned around and invested much of that money in developing websites and supporting local events likely to attract out-of-town visitors, including: Cambria Heritage Days, $360 (Cambria Historical Society); the Gene Cerise Memorial Country Coast Classic Bike Ride, $860 (YMCA, Cambria Teen Center); Cambria Garden Tour, $1,600 (Cambria Education Foundation); Cambria Independence Day fireworks, $9,000 (plus $1,600 from San Simeon; American Legion Post No. 432); Scarecrow Festival in October, $4,500 (up from $2,600 last year; Cambria Historical Society); and $13,000 to make it possible for the Cambria Otter Trolley to run Fridays through Sundays through the summer.
Countywide, as of June, 52 local fund applications have been processed for a total of more than $350,000.
The Cambria Scarecrow Festival is a good example of a successful applicant for funds, according to Victoria Moreno, owner of Victoria’s Last Resort (a Cambria bed and breakfast) and Cambria Tourism Board (CTB) board member.
“They’ve got a dedicated group of people,” Moreno said. “That’s a big part of it. We can help, but they’re the ones that have to make it happen.”
Only nonprofit groups need apply, Moreno added. Applications should be geared toward increasing tourism, overnight stays and that shoulder season thing.
The CTB has been taking requests as they come up and, as they say, reinventing the wheel as they decide how to decide on what to fund and for how much. Recently, however, it’s somewhat formalized the procedure, thanks in large part to the organizational efforts of its new managing assistant Julia Mitchell, a longtime Cambrian (though she now lives in North County).
CTB board member Linda Finley will be doing outreach to local nonprofit groups about how to apply for funds, and for what CTB is looking.
In the meantime, anyone with questions can call Julia at 674-7880, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are also forms online at http://winecoast country.com/files/local-fund- policy. pdf and http://winecoastcountry. c om/files/Local_Area_App Generic1.pdf for those interested in promoting local tourism.
CTB public meetings are held monthly on at 1 p.m. on the second Tuesday at Cambria Pines Lodge.
The San Simeon Tourism Alliance meets at 1 p.m. the third Tuesday of each month in the Cavalier Butte Room.
Agenda, minutes and other information are online at www.yourcbid.com.
Email Bert Etling, managing editor of The Cambrian, at email@example.com.