This is in response to the letter submitted by Don Williams titled "Maybe it's time to cut the marketing purse strings," (May 27).
Mr. Williams is correct in his assertion that Calistoga is a special place that has a great reputation throughout the world. He is incorrect in his assertion that we can rest on our laurels and cease our destination marketing efforts. Calistoga has always been a special destination. As a matter of fact and of history, we were founded as a tourist destination. Regardless of whether you measure the time you have lived in Calistoga in terms of years or generations, we have all benefited from our reputation as a destination for health, wellness, food, wine, the arts and hospitality.
We focus on sharing our history and uniqueness with an audience that will appreciate our character, charm and culture. Anyone who operates a business that relies on customers knows the importance of continuing to market during good economic times as well as during periods of challenge or recession. No business, tourism included, has the luxury of assuming that their customers will just simply keep showing up.
To put our marketing expenses into perspective, the funding that the city invests in destination marketing equates to less than 6 percent of the total revenues of Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) collected. The TOT that is collected directly funds 54 percent of the services provided by the City of Calistoga. These include police, fire, public works (sidewalks and roads), recreation service (including community pool operations), and just about any other expense you can think of to run our community. If you include the sales tax generated by visitors and the property taxes paid by visitor-serving businesses, the total tourism impact to the City's operating budget exceeds 60 percent. Taking a year off to sit back and see if there is an impact to this critical revenue stream would be irresponsible.
We understand and appreciate the challenges that our success brings, including housing issues. We are working with the City and the County on ways to improve them, but it will require the help of all industries within our community.
Does Calistoga TOT benefit from natural economic growth, we certainly do. When the U.S. and global economies do well, Calistoga does well. With that understood, it is important to note that our occupancy rates and TOT revenue growth have outpaced the general economy as well as outpaced many of the destination communities with whom we compete. This is a clear indicator that our marketing efforts are effective. To answer Mr. Williams' comment, there is no direct empirical data on marketing investments made to revenues generated. However, the industry experts and our own experience demonstrates that we realize significant benefits from our marketing endeavors.
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One last point on Mr. Williams’ suggestion of taking a year off from destination marketing. It's not a light switch, you can't simply turn it back on and go to 'bright'. Lost momentum will have to be regained, staffing and business relationships will have to be rebuilt. To suggest we stop while things are good is analogous to ceasing to maintain or invest in your home once your mortgage is paid off.
We will not be scaling back our efforts. Instead, we will be pressing to expand and improve upon them. Tourism is what established Calistoga. Tourism is what sustains Calistoga. Managed tourism in a controlled and responsible manner is what we will continue to do with the primary goal of improving the quality of life for all that live and work in Calistoga.
Chairperson, Board of Directors
Calistoga Chamber of Commerce