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Record Year for SLO Tourism

Since July 2014, monthly tourism revenue received from local hotels, inns and other lodging in San Luis Obispo has seen between an 8 percent to 20 percent monthly year over year increase.

The numbers have been on a steady incline since the 2010-11 fiscal year, when the so-called bed tax grew 8.5 percent over the previous year. Each year since has seen significant growth: in 2011-12 transient occupancy tax was up 8 percent, in 2012-13 it was up 6.2 percent, in 2013-14 it was up 8.6 percent and in 2014-15 it was up 12.3 percent.

Much of this success can be credited to the City’s focused strategic tourism efforts led by the City’s Tourism Business Improvement (TBID) district whose annual report was presented to San Luis Obispo City Council on Tuesday. Established in 2008 at the request of the local lodging industry, the special assessment district was formed on the basis of collecting a 2% fee on hotel stays. The revenues generated are separate from the City’s general fund, and are to be used solely for the purpose of marketing San Luis Obispo as a visitor destination.

“Steady, consistent increase and smart growth is what we are looking for and seeing,” said Nipool Patel, co-owner of the Lamplighter Inn and chair of SLO City Tourism Business Improvement District board of directors. “These are numbers that we can count on and use to plan future growth not only for the city but for our own businesses.”

Through this special funding paid for by the overnight guests in San Luis Obispo, the City has been able to grow the awareness of the destination on a regional, national and global level.

Marketing efforts for the City’s tourism promotion are led by local agencies Barnett Cox & Associates and StudioGood, who work collaboratively to execute a multi-faceted campaign. Campaign elements in 2014-2015 included rebranding the City’s tourism logo, developing a compelling and award-winning advertising campaign for use in print, digital and email marketing outreach, strengthening the #ShareSLO outward facing social media campaign on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, and attending more than a dozen events and tradeshows to promote the SLO brand.

Serving as the Public Relations arm for San Luis Obispo tourism, the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce, has hosted more than 45 media outlets, travel writers and bloggers, facilitating articles, feature stories and videos showcasing the Central Coast as more than a one-night stopover. This effort resulted in hundreds of prominent placements in publications including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Sunset Magazine and Travel+Leisure, among others, recognizing SLO as a destination.

Along with rising numbers in tourism revenue, the SLO Chamber Visitor Center also welcomed a record number of visitors, where more than 80,000 walk-ins, 6,000 phone calls and nearly 2,000 emails were greeted by Chamber staff.

The city’s transient occupancy tax (TOT) is the fourth largest revenue generator for the City behind general sales tax, property taxes and funds raised through Measure G. Since the inception of the City’s TBID in 2008, the City has seen a 44% increase in the contrition from TOT from $4.7 million to $6.8 million in fiscal year 2014-15.

Funds raised from TOT go into the City’s general fund, which pays for essential city services such as police and fire, maintenance of public spaces, funding of public services, as well as some personnel expenses. The City has estimated that it will raise over $6.8 million from TOT in 2015-16 making up 10 percent of the forecasted general fund revenue.

Click here to see the San Luis Obispo City TBID annual report here.

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