Lincoln City Visitors and Convention Bureau (VCB) Director Sandy Pfaff reported to her city council Monday night that although total hotel-motel room tax collections were up 7% in the 2012-13 fiscal year, some local hoteliers were crying the blues. Pfaff said that while she’s heard that tourist numbers were down this past season, room taxes rose because tourism properties raised their rates – therefore tax amounts went up too.
Pfaff said that this was the first year of the city council’s new policy on getting the VCB more involved in creating new events rather than running them as they have in the past. However, Pfaff said a major glitch in the policy implementation is that local non-profits and for-profit event managers are not as experienced or nimble at putting on those events aimed at tourists. Pfaff said it was difficult to promote them when specific details and other aspects weren’t completely nailed down until perhaps a few weeks before the event itself. And by then it’s just about too late for the ads to so much good on the street. She said when the VCB ran the events they had the luxury of knowing where everything was and at what stage of development. Therefore they were able to give the events a lot more community and regional publicity well in advance and therefore draw more visitors to Lincoln City.
Pfaff said other cities have more attractions for tourists: Astoria with its museums and parks, Newport with it’s Hatfield Marine Science Center and Oregon Coast Aquarium. She said it means that Lincoln City needs to create and strongly support winning events – providing visitors things to see and do that are interesting, educational or just plain fun. The city must also better promote the city’s natural settings and offer ways for visitors to interact with it like crab and clam clinics, perfecting chowder in the Culinary Center, and further developing Lincoln City’s Heritage Trail.
Pfaff reminded everyone that the effectiveness of specific events or unique attractions is hard to measure when a tabulation of hotel-motel room occupancy numbers are not possible – not possible because that information is proprietary to each individual hotel and motel and they won’t give up those numbers for reasons of competitiveness. But yet those same hotel-motel owners continue to implore the Visitors Bureau and the City Council to attracts more tourists to Lincoln City. One vacation rental manager suggested the city take surveys of visitors to ascertain why they came to Lincoln City and how long they stay. Also ask them what they would like to see more of in Lincoln City.
In the meantime, Mayor Anderson says he would like to get a better handle on what the Visitor’s Bureau is getting for its grant money when they write checks to support non-profit and for-profit special events throughout the Lincoln City area. He said he wants to ensure that the taxpayers of Lincoln City are getting a good return on their investment when tax dollars are spent to promote events. “Heads in beds creates room tax dollars – that’s the bottom line,” he said.