Monterey County CVB: Conquering Challenges for a Stronger District

Monterey County offers an iconic California experience. From the breathtaking coastline of Big Sur and fresh seafood on Cannery Row in Monterey, to world renowned golf courses in Carmel-by-the-Sea and handcrafted wines in Carmel Valley – Monterey County has something special for everyone who visits. The Monterey Convention and Visitors Bureau (“MCCVB”) has an abundance of experiences to promote to visitors. Yet, allocating resources for such activities comes with challenges; one being connecting with stakeholders on the importance of destination marketing funding.

The MCCVB has historically been funded on an annual basis through a Tourism Business Improvement District (“TBID”) established in 2006 under the Parking and Business Improvement Area of 1989 (“89 Act”). Their TBID includes the County of Monterey along with the incorporated areas of Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Salinas, Seaside, Marina and Pacific Grove. Additionally, each of the jurisdictions have contributed a portion of their Transient Occupancy Tax (“TOT”) which is usually a part of their “general fund” and is requested by the MCCVB.

Like many destination marketing organizations, elected officials began to question the current funding structure. With an increase to the TBID assessment in 2012, council members wondered why the jurisdiction should continue to contribute TOT revenues when funding was still generated through the TBID.  In order to secure the TBID funding for more than an annual term, allowed under the 89 Act, the MCCVB decided to pursue a TBID under the Property and Business Improvement District Law of 1994 (“94 Act”). The 94 Act allows for assessment funds to be secured over a five-year term, making the decision to convert from the 89 Act an easy one for this destination. Although the decision was clear, implementation became murky.

In a recent interview with the MCCVB’s Vice President of Operations, Jennifer Johnson, she stated, “The first challenge we experienced was stakeholder education, specifically with the local jurisdiction staff and elected officials about the current TBID.” To overcome this challenge, the MCCVB team conducted multiple presentations and countless one-on-one meetings with city staff members and elected officials from the seven jurisdictions within the TBID. This stakeholder education process also included talking to staff and elected officials from jurisdictions that were not included in the 89 Act TBID, but would be included in the 94 Act TBID. Johnson mentioned, “What we learned from this process was to consider adequate time to communicate with jurisdiction staff and elected officials that are not familiar with TBIDs.”

The second challenge facing the MCCVB was revamping their General Ledger coding and accounting system to account for TBID public funding, TOT public funding, and private funding sources. This change in the General Ledger has given the MCCVB the ability to report to the TBID Oversight Committee on how TBID funding is budgeted and expensed. As Johnson stated, “It provides an extra dimension of reporting, but with that level of complex accounting comes having to dedicate additional resources to implementation and management of the new process.”  The outcome of the new system is the ability to budget, report on expenditures, and calculate return on expenditure based on the funding being used. Now, the MCCVB will be able to show program results paid for with the TBID funding and other funding sources.

Although met with challenges, the MCCVB never wavered. And the result of their triumph was a stronger district armored with years of financial stability. So whether your TBID has one jurisdiction or multiple, remember that stakeholder education is critical for the success of maintaining support for TBID funding. Stakeholders are not limited to hotel owners and general managers, and should include jurisdiction staff and elected officials. If you have multiple jurisdiction within your TBID, be sure to meet with staff and elected officials from each of the jurisdictions you promote so they can become supporters of the TBID and the activity your organization is conducting.

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