I think a response to the Morro Bay Chamber of Commerce messages from the chamber president and executive director as published in the chambers’ newsletter is in order. There is always another side to a story.
It is the contention of the chamber as stated in their message to members that exploring new options to move marketing forward in Morro Bay is dividing the community; that it will not be cost effective; and that it will diminish the chamber to the point of ineffectiveness.
The separation of the chamber and the Visitor Center does not in itself divide the business community. I believe this separation should actually give back the chamber’s focus to existing business interests in Morro Bay and more importantly free up time for the director to explore avenues for new business development.
There has never been a desire by the Morro Bay Tourism Business Improvement District (TBID) to control marketing directed to one industry. The city’s TBID was formed with a makeup unique to the majority of tourism improvement districts in the county in that it includes members of the community who are not hoteliers. The TBID has sought input from the community at large, and it was from this input that the Eckles-Alexander Plan A was born.
The loss of name recognition in separating the chamber and the Visitor Center will be minor. Most tourism travelers look for a Visitor Center, not a Chamber of Commerce. The problem with the existing arrangement is location; the Visitor Center is hard to find and the parking is difficult at best. The Chamber of Commerce has great name recognition for business development but not necessarily for the visiting tourist. It is hoped that with an easierto-find location and more parking accessibility, the Visitor Center will be more visitor friendly.
I do not believe that the cities cited in the Plan A study have more or better assets than the city of Morro Bay. We have amazing potential here in Morro Bay that with a focused marketing plan led by a dynamic director of tourism should sustain both itself and the Chamber of Commerce. The chamber should not need to be subsidized by the taxpayer through city funding or the lodging industry by self-assessed marketing dollars.
As tourism in Morro Bay flourishes, all businesses should flourish with a portion of this flowing back to the chamber in membership fees and events revenue. The question was specifically asked when the TBID was exploring options of moving marketing for the city forward with a director of tourism or whether the chamber could function without the Visitor Center contract. The chamber director assured the TBID board that the chamber would have to tighten its belt but would survive.
It was never the intention of anyone to divide the community or dilute the monies put forward to market the marvelous destination of Morro Bay. I believe Plan A streamlines the marketing efforts, so it will actually stretch the marketing dollars. It will also introduce the extremely important concept of accountability into the framework, something lacking in the existing process.
As a member of the Morro Bay TBID, I believe the mission has always been to promote the amazing destination I believe Morro Bay to be; at all times the goal has been to implement a destination marketing plan, to understand that the tourist looks for dining, shopping and recreation options when traveling and not just a place to sleep.
Let’s take a look at both of these plans with an open eye toward a stronger and healthier economy for the city and not rely on kneejerk reactions or scare tactics in determining what is best for Morro Bay.
To review the Plan A, please go to http://www.MBTourismPlan.com.
Karen Biaggini is a Morro Bay resident, business owner, Chamber of Commerce member and Tourism Business Improvement District member.