Nearly two years after the creation of a Walnut Creek tourism and visitor's bureau funded by a business improvement district, almost $300,000 has been spent predominately on advertising.
The City Council reauthorized the tourism business improvement district at its meeting last week. This allows the advisory board for the bid, which operates as the Walnut Creek Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau, to collect a fee from overnight guests at four city hotels. The bureau was created in an effort to draw more overnight travelers to Walnut Creek.
The fee, which has not changed from last year, is $2 per room per night for hotels with 100 or more sleeping rooms, and $1.50 for hotels with fewer than 100 rooms. None of the hotels that charge the fee protested the continuation of the district.
"We have raised $300,000 and spent it on marketing ... none of it was taxpayer money," Jay Hoyer, chamber of commerce president told the City Council last week.
Typically an overnight guest spends about $385 per day in the city they visit, he said. This economic activity is the whole reason the hotels and city created the district.
This past year, the bureau spent a third of its money, nearly $100,000, on ads in AAA's Via magazine and Sunset magazine, which netted about 1,000 requests for more information, Hoyer said.
Another $27,000 was spent on localgetaways.com "multimedium" advertising campaign.
Other expenses include sponsorships, meetings, the hiring of a public relations firm and a new website called www.gowalnutcreek.com.
Councilman Gary Skrel asked if the visitor's bureau was courting other hotels besides the four that have already signed on. Specifically, Skrel was curious about including Renaissance Club Sport and Embassy Suites, which have Walnut Creek addresses but aren't in the incorporated portion of the city.
"Each have contacted their ownerships and they are reticent to do it -- they are worried about that $2 room tax," Hoyer answered.
The targeted advertising and marketing will focus next year on trying to bring conventions, tournaments and trade shows to the city. Perhaps the biggest push will be in luring bridal shows and fairs to Walnut Creek, he said.
But all of this seems similar to what the Walnut Creek Downtown Business Association is embarking on with its own "branding plan." That effort, which took a brand consultant two years to create, not only identifies the fine dining and shopping downtown business leaders should push, but details a step-by-step process on how to build and reinforce it -- everything from advertising materials to slogans.
The materials, slogans and overall brand is not what the visitor's bureau is using now.
Councilman Kish Rajan asked Hoyer at the council meeting last week how the two efforts will build on each other and not be redundant.
Hoyer said the advisory board for the visitor's bureau has a downtown business association member on it and all the information gets shared.
In an email, Hoyer said he doesn't see any competition with the DBA's work on branding and the bureau's attempt to attract overnight guests.
"Those appear to be complimentary goals," he said. "The Visitors Bureau [sic] is very focused on its mission. If the branding effort results in slogans, I'm sure the Visitors Bureau will want to work closely with those concepts."
Contact Elisabeth Nardi at 925-952-2617. Follow her at Twitter.com/enardi10.