Tourism Industry Update

May 17, 2024

IN THIS ISSUE…

Price Transparency Law Takes Effect July 1, 2024

A new law in California that affects thousands of businesses across a wide variety of sectors is set to begin next month. Beginning July 1st two new bills intended to bring much-needed clarity and transparency to retail transactions will impact hotels, restaurants, cruise lines and other businesses that charge a resort fee, service charge, surcharges and add-ons. As the new law goes into effect, aside from government taxes and shipping costs, the price consumers see is the price they pay.

This new law encompasses two bills: Senate Bill 478, which ensures that advertised prices — regardless of industry — are disclosed upfront, and Assembly Bill 537, which is specific to the state’s lodging rate transparency. In terms of hotels, the law states that any mandatory fee has to be displayed to consumers at the time of reservation. Although the new law doesn’t dictate what companies charge for their goods or services, at restaurants and bars service fees are often used to supplement or replace gratuities. However, under the new law these establishments will not be allowed to add these charges to a customers’ bill. A recent article on Eater.com cited the San Francisco Chronicle as reporting that the California Restaurant Association is arguing that the legislation, which bans “advertising, displaying, or offering a price for a good or service that does not include all mandatory fees or charges” doesn’t apply to restaurants since restaurant menu items are neither goods nor services – a legal technicality but one that could be enough to land the new law in court. 

According to the attorney general’s newly published FAQs, the law applies to event tickets, short-term rentals, hotels, restaurants, food delivery, and generally to most sales or leases of goods and service for a consumer’s personal use. Click here to download a helpful FAQ for local businesses about this new law.

VSCC Staff Conducts Annual Outreach to Lodging Industry

Supporting local hotels, motels, bed and breakfast inns and vacation rental businesses, VSCC staff personally visited each property on Tuesday, May 21st. This annual community outreach “Lodging Meet and Greet” visits with all TMD members are a way for staff to personally connect with property owners and general managers and distribute a small gift, the new countywide map, and collateral materials as the industry prepares for the start of the summer season. 

According to a Dean Runyan Associates report released recently by Visit California, visitor spending reached $1.4 billion in Santa Cruz County in 2023. This figures tracks with steady economic growth, showing that the local tourism industry had recovered to 135 percent over 2019 pre-pandemic levels, which is the highest post-pandemic recovery rate of any county in California.

Santa Cruz’s recovery index was 98 percent recovered in 2021, and 126 percent recovered in 2022. The report further indicated that the tourism industry supported over 10,000 jobs locally.

Last year was the third consecutive year of tourism growth since the pandemic, a testament to the success of the industry’s innovative strategies designed to maintain California’s market share of visitors. The local tourism industry grew by 6.6 percent over 2022 figures.

 Santa Cruz County Participates in Fourth Club California Virtual Event

Taking a step toward making inroads in emerging markets, VSCC participated in its fourth Club California training series, hosted by Visit California. These events target the travel trade sector of the industry and are designed to engage and motivate international agents and tour operators about California destinations.

As Santa Cruz County matures in the UK, Germany and Canada, VSCC is expanding its reach to overseas markets that coincide with the area’s destination assets and visitor preferences and is targeting emerging markets that were previously untapped. Australia, South Korea, India and Scandinavia are regions that VSCC is examining, utilizing Visit California’s in-market resources to reach travel trade and media outlets.

The Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland are of particular interest to VSCC, as of U.S. destinations visited by Nordic travelers, the San Francisco Bay Area is the second most popular, following Los Angeles. Club California was an initial way VSCC could gain some traction in this market. Club California Nordics, launched in Copenhagen on April 10, 2024 was the setting for the most recent event. Unique to the Scandinavian event, Santa Cruz County was the featured destination, with Flavia Oliveira, Director of Sales and Travel Trade, and Christina Glynn, Director of Communications, receiving an exclusive opportunity to share with agents and tour operators destination and logistical information during a virtual video presentation. The presentation began with a branded video, followed by key messaging about Santa Cruz County’s four unique destination pillars (coastal, redwoods, creativity, agriculture).

In 2023, VSCC participated in Club California events held in Australia in August, in India in November and in South Korea in December. The objective of these events is to educate agents on the depth and diversity of Santa Cruz County in relation to the state, and leverage excitement around a common theme, The Ultimate Playground campaign in each country. As a result of the Club California South Korea, VSCC will be hosting a group of eight travel trade representatives from South Korea in June.

TMD Tier Rate Increase Takes Effect July 1, 2024 

VSCC calculated RevPAR for lodging properties countywide and the rate structure for the TMD has been adjusted. These new rates fall into four categories based on RevPAR. The TMD assessment levels are based upon recognized industry performance metrics, and the revenue from the assessment is a pass-through from paid lodging guests, providing more than 90 percent of VSCC’s annual revenue. For more information, contact VSCC.

VSCC CEO to Join CalTravel Board

Terence Concannon will join the board of directors of the California Travel Association (CalTravel) this summer. He will serve alongside representatives from 80 destinations, attractions, and industry-related agencies, including Cannery Row Company, Los Angeles Tourism, Disneyland Resort, San Francisco Hotel Council, California Restaurant Association, Visit Santa Barbara, and others. Terence will also join CalTravel’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee and the Sustainability and Stewardship Committee. He is the second tourism industry professional in Santa Cruz County to join the CalTravel board; Karley Pope, Director of Marketing and Sales at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, is also a board member.  

Social Media Update

VSCC social media followers love to learn about new buzzworthy eateries to add to their Santa Cruz County bucket list. From the romantic new Italian-inspired restaurant in Aptos, Cavalletta, to 6 Buzzworthy Downtown Santa Cruz Spots, @visitsantacruz keeps dishing on the hottest new places to eat in the county.  By creating and sharing this foodie-focused content, VSCC is not only giving fans what they engage with most but is simultaneously helping elevate awareness of these new local businesses. Do you own a local eatery? If so, be sure to follow @visitsantacruz on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.

Arrivals and Departures

Welcome Jon Kennedy, new General Manager at the Marea Sol hotel! Markus Krebbs has been appointed as pre-opening General Manager for the currently-under-construction La Bahia Hotel & Spa, with an expected opening date of spring 2025. Aptos’ Seacliff Inn welcomes Bridgette Quartararo as the new Director of Sales. And Robb Woulfe, Executive Director of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History announced his departure last month following four successful years of leadership. Robb will be transitioning out of his position over the next nine months. In the meantime, museum officials are gathering input from the community regarding priorities in the search for a new executive director through an online survey.

Did you know?

The City of Santa Cruz has released the final Community Vision for West Cliff Drive, based on community input, research and city resources. The 50-year plan paves the way for protecting West Cliff Drive from erosion, traffic, natural disasters, pedestrian and bicycle usage and increasing the esthetic of this iconic spot. This long-term planning also allows the city to allocate resources to projects that may take decades to plan, fund, and complete.