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Tourism spending up 4 percent in San Luis Obispo County

Visit San Luis Obispo County, a nonprofit countywide destination marketing organization, says tourist spending in the county reached $1.58 billion in 2015. It shared the news, along with other tourism industry developments, at the San Luis Obispo County Tourism Exchange May 6 at the Fremont Theatre.
Visit San Luis Obispo County, a nonprofit countywide destination marketing organization, says tourist spending in the county reached $1.58 billion in 2015. It shared the news, along with other tourism industry developments, at the San Luis Obispo County Tourism Exchange May 6 at the Fremont Theatre.

Tourist spending in San Luis Obispo County was $1.58 billion last year, up 4 percent from 2014, according to Visit San Luis Obispo County, a nonprofit countywide destination marketing organization. It remains a top economic driver in the county.

Other factors indicating the local growth of tourism, the group noted in a news release, include:

▪  Industry earnings generated by travel and tourism spending were $510 million last year, up $40 million, or 8.5 percent, from 2014.

▪  Jobs in the tourism industry increased 4.5 percent in 2015 over the previous year. According to the news release, 17,870 people were employed in tourism-related jobs in the county last year, making up 10.4 percent of total employment in the county.

▪  Local and state tax receipts last year totaled $132 million in revenue generated by travel spending, reflecting a 6 percent and 1.5 percent increase respectively over 2014.

▪  Revenue from bed taxes — known as the Transient Occupancy Tax — were up 8.6 percent on average last year.

The countywide tourism industry is expected to keep growing, as work on a dozen new properties and developments gets underway in the next few years, many focused on a four-star experience. In addition, existing lodging properties and retail space are undergoing additions and renovations, Visit San Luis Obispo County noted.

The San Luis Obispo County hotel market is currently operating at historically high occupancy levels, said Brandon Feighner, director of CBRE Hotels, Valuation and Advisory Services. Along with other top tourism officials, he spoke at a San Luis Obispo County Tourism Exchange last Friday.

Caroline Beteta, president and chief executive officer of Visit California, provided an update on the state of tourism in California and major statewide initiatives impacting areas like San Luis Obispo County.

Other speakers were Chuck Davison, president and chief executive officer of Visit San Luis Obispo County, and Pat Merrill, partner at Merrill Research.

The San Luis Obispo County Tourism Exchange also featured the first San Luis Obispo County Tourism Awards, with awards for best Visitor Destination Experience, Environmental Tourism Excellence and the Tourism Hero Award.

The hero award was given to the Morro Bay Fire Department and the CHP’s Coastal Division Air Operations. The agencies were the first responders in a recent Morro Rock rescue.

After a Fresno man climbed Morro Rock to propose to his girlfriend over the video-messaging app FaceTime, he got stuck climbing down the rock and had to be rescued by helicopter.

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