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As a business owner in Calistoga, I would like to address comments to Don Williams pertaining to his recent article “Maybe it’s time to cut the marketing purse strings” (May 27).

During times of boom and times of bust, bringing recognition to our unique characteristics as a travel destination, the City of Calistoga funds “destination marketing” efforts to ensure that our city is reaching out to guests all over the world so they might be enticed to spend their travel dollars by coming to our fair city.

Guests, Mr. Williams, who walk on the floors of the various hotels, restaurants, retail stores, grocery store, tasting rooms, hardware store and all the other businesses of Calistoga. Businesses who employ the residents of Calistoga that have installed flooring or will potentially install new flooring in their homes.

You probably wouldn’t be interested in refinishing those floors, since it’s a time of boom and you probably have all the business you need.

As a Chamber member, which you are not one of, I find no value in your opinion about how or if the Chamber’s funding should continue. My livelihood, my entire income, is based on the travel industry and on guests who enjoy wine and want to visit Calistoga to sample and buy our wine.

These guests are potentially looking to find new relationships with their travel dollars, and even though a terrific visit to Calistoga may translate into future visits, reminding them of the charm and hospitality they found upon their visit here is very important.

Destination marketing funding helps keep those dots connected. I find immense value in the efforts of the Chamber of Commerce – whose mission it is to help promote our town and our businesses, not just to visitors, but to our community and valley. I figure you must not have attended business school, Mr. Williams, or maybe you were out the day they taught that in times of bust even more resources should be directed at marketing efforts.

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Alternatively, in times of a good economy, travelers have additional resources and potentially even more flexibility in how and where they spend their leisure dollars. If we shut down destination marketing, then those potential guests may be lured to other communities who continue to have strong marketing programs and our thriving community would die due to neglect from the very guests who fund so much of our city’s needs.

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The small amount of money the city sets aside for destination marketing equates to between 5 percent and about 8 percent of the annual TOT (Transient Occupancy Tax) collected each year of the past 10 years or so. That means that of the over $6 million paid in TOT by our visitors in 2016, more than 90 percent of the funds are used for ongoing city services and as a percentage of the entire city budget of roughly $10 million, the destination marketing funds constitute about 3 percent of the budget; services that would be detrimentally affected if those guests chose to go to Sonoma County, or stay in Yountville, or fly over California and head for Hawaii, or Mexico or any of the other hundreds of thousands of vacation destinations all over the world.

We must make efforts to sway their vote regarding their leisure dollars to come to Calistoga, for the good of all businesses and ultimately the city services that provide support to the residents.

I would like to suggest to Mr. Williams that he cease his marketing for a period of one year and see how his business fares.

Laura Swanton

Calistoga

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