Is tourism the answer to SLO County’s economic future? Officials want your opinion

Tourism could be the key driver of San Luis Obispo County’s economic future, and help replace lost industry from Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant’s pending closure, according to a nonprofit working on a 20- to 30-year outlook on local tourism.

Visit SLO CAL, a county tourism marketing organization, is putting together a plan it’s calling a Destination Management Strategy that will identify ways to enhance and improve tourism opportunities for visitors over the next few decades, while striving to maintain quality of life for residents.

“Tourism has a central role to play in the post-Diablo economic strategy,” said Chuck Davison, president and CEO of Visit SLO Cal. “A well-managed destination drives economic activity far beyond spending by visitors ... we are creating a place that people want to work and business wants to be.”

The Destination Management Strategy is a $250,000 endeavor funded by Visit SLO CAL. That strategic report will be available to the public in spring 2019.

The non-profit also is asking the public’s help, through a questionnaire, to gather feedback on a wide range of topics, such as local events and festivals, flights and ground transportation, outdoor activities, and music performances.

The public survey opened Wednesday will run through Aug. 24, taking an estimated 15 to 20 minutes to complete. Poll questions include:

What impact do you think festivals and events (music, food, wine, arts and crafts) have on quality of life in the region?

How would you rate the general quality of customer service in San Luis Obispo County?

What impact do you think the development of more high end hotels and resorts in San Luis Obispo County would have on quality of life in the region?

The organization Visit SLO CAL is putting together a comprehensive analysis of the local tourism outlook and ideas for planning over the next 20 to 30 years. Visit SLO CAL

The poll, which can be found at slocal.com/survey, also poses questions on the impacts of homelessness, housing development, vacation rentals and the potential for redevelopment of the Morro Bay Power Plant and Diablo Canyon sites.

Last year, visitors spent nearly $1.7 billion in the county, making tourism the second largest regional economic driver after agriculture, generating $79.3 million in taxes, according to Visit SLO CAL.

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The organization believes that tourism will be a key force in making up for Diablo Canyon’s $1 billion in economic impacts when the nuclear power plant closes.

That action plan will work toward identifying what new amenities and infrastructure are needed — whether that’s parks, shuttle services, adventure activities or recreational and natural open-space trails.

The idea is to “protect, improve and enhance the region’s long-term quality of life and economic prosperity,” Davison said.

Visit SLO Cal officials said they’re coordinating the effort with every city manager in the county, as well as more than 130 local leaders such as mayors and environmental, education, nonprofit, technology and small-business representatives.

Visit SLO CAL receives 1 percent of countywide local bed taxes for its tourism marketing services. The nonprofit’s annual budget is about $4 million.

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