The Santa Ynez Valley Tourism Improvement District is here to stay.
The Solvang City Council unanimously voted to extend the district for six more years to support tourism in the region in its regular meeting on Monday.
The district uses revenue from a small fee per hotel room rented to fund Visit the Santa Ynez Valley, marketing Santa Ynez, Solvang, Buellton, Los Olivos, Ballard and Los Alamos.
“It feels great,” Visit SYV President and CEO Shelby Sim told the News-Press. “Knowing that Visit SYV continues on for six more years enables us to set short- and long-term goals to achieve the next level in marketing and ensuring the Santa Ynez Valley stands out as the world class destination it is.”
He said that tourism in the Valley has been significantly impacted, obviously by COVID-19. Leisure travel was prohibited for approximately four months in 2020, so visitation and overnight stays specifically were at a standstill, according to Mr. Sim.
As of Dec. 7, 2020, the only things open in the valley were, and still are, hotels and accommodations for critical infrastructure only; retail at 20% capacity indoors; outdoor recreation including golf courses, hiking trails and parks; restaurants for take-out, pickup and delivery only; and fitness centers, gyms and studios but outdoor only and masks required.
“When we reopened for leisure and outdoor dining in June, it took no time at all to bounce back and our October and November were solid,” he said. “But when we shut down again in early December, the usually busy Christmas season was nonexistent.”
Now, the district’s goal is to recover from COVID-19 first and foremost by collaborating with other Destination Marketing Organizations in Santa Barbara County and the Central Coast. Its renewal means that Visit SYV can continue to compete in the marketplace with confidence and invest time and resources into long-term projects.
About 93% of hoteliers supported extending the district when it only needed to exceed 50% support, according to local media reports.
Under the new plan, the annual assessment of $3 per room per night could increase to $3.50 in 2024, and the district expects to raise $900,000 in its first year of renewal.
The $900,000 will mostly fund sales and marketing, along with administration, special projects, contingency/reserve and the city fee.
In 2019, the district funds totaled $947,405.
“Our number one goal is visitation and overnight stays, so all businesses benefit from our marketing efforts of bringing more customers to the area,” Mr. Sim said. “We have a grant program that provides marketing dollars to nonprofits such as chambers, rotaries, museums and other community based organizations to promote their events which helps their fundraising efforts.”
He encouraged tourists and visitors to visit the Valley and stay overnight when leisure travel is permitted again.