Pismo’s bed tax sets a record

Pismo Beach brought in more than $1 million in transient occupancy tax revenue in July — the highest amount the city has ever brought in during a single month and about $88,000 more than it collected in July 2010. Suzen Brasile, executive director of the city’s Conference & Visitors Bureau, attributed the roughly 9.7 percent increase to expanded marketing efforts over the past two years, especially in the Los Angeles area, and a larger presence on social media and the Web.

“I think part of it is people were realizing that in spite of the economic times, they still needed to take that vacation,” she added.

Transient occupancy tax, also called bed tax, is a 10 percent tax added to overnight stays at Pismo Beach hotels, vacation rentals and recreational vehicle parks.

It’s the largest source of revenue for the city, making up nearly 40 percent of the general fund.

Transient occupancy tax revenue was up 8 percent in the past fiscal year, which ended June 30, over the 2009-10 year. The city collected $6.2 million in the 2010-11 fiscal year, compared with $5.77 million the previous year, Finance Director George Edes said.

In each of the past three years, about 10 percent or less of the tax revenue has gone to the Conference & Visitors Bureau to pay for its staff, special events and advertising efforts.

However, tourism efforts have increased thanks to the formation of a business improvement district in 2009, which levies a 1 percent surcharge on room stays. That revenue — which totaled $620,000 in the past fiscal year — is specifically used for tourism and marketing efforts.

That additional revenue has allowed the city to add to the size and frequency of its advertising efforts, reach out to the Los Angeles and Bay Area markets and rebrand Pismo Beach as a “wine and waves” destination, with wineries in Edna Valley only a short drive away, said John Sorgenfrei, owner and president of TJA Advertising & Public Relations.The city contracts with the Pismo Beach-based firm to promote tourism through various print publications and websites. This year, TJA Advertising is also redesigning the city’s tourism information website, http://classiccalifornia.com.

In September, the Pismo Beach City Council increased TJA Advertising’s contract from July 1 through Aug. 30, 2012, to $525,600. Of that, $462,528 will go toward advertising and promotions, while the firm receives a 12 percent fee of $63,072.