The Ridgecrest City Council approved the next phase of nearly doubling the local tourism district assessment rate during their meeting on Wednesday.
If the increase is given the green light, it is projected to generate over $1 million annually, which will be primarily allocated towards promoting local sports events and filming activities, as stated by Kari Crutcher, the Executive Director of the Ridgecrest Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Assuming successful completion of the process, the Ridgecrest Tourism Improvement District (RTID) will be renewed for another 10-year term starting in October, accompanied by an increase in the hotel assessment rate from 3 percent to 5.75 percent.
The council members unanimously passed a resolution to initiate the TBID renewal process at the request of the RACVB, with Council Member Kyle Blades absent from the meeting.
The RTID functions as a benefit assessment district aimed at supporting marketing and sales promotion endeavors for lodging businesses within Ridgecrest. The renewed RTID would encompass all current and future lodging establishments within the city limits.
If approved, the new assessment is estimated to generate approximately $1.14 million in its initial year. The proceeds will be allocated to fund the RACVB and the California Welcome Center – Ridgecrest, specifically for the promotion of travel and tourism about Ridgecrest, as indicated by the RACVB in May.
It is important to note that the proposed assessment is not a new charge but rather an increase to an existing one. Currently, the RTID, established in 2012, collects a 3 percent assessment from all hotel room rentals of 30 days or fewer, which is paid by hotel guests as a pass-through charge.
Crutcher attended the council meeting to elaborate on how the bureau intends to utilize the additional revenue. She emphasized that the primary focus would be on expanding sporting events.
For example, hosting a two-day softball tournament with 16 teams could generate approximately $45,000 in community spending for Ridgecrest, based on statistics from softball tournaments held during the pandemic, according to Crutcher.
Additionally, the plan involves bolstering Ridgecrest’s presence in the film industry and establishing collaborative marketing efforts with Mammoth and Death Valley. Crutcher explained that the timing of the increase was chosen to mitigate the expected decline in hotel occupancy once the China Lake reconstruction efforts, which are currently at their peak, begin to wind down.
The RACVB has outlined the budget increase distribution as follows: 30 percent for digital/online marketing, 24 percent for traditional media in feeder markets (broadcast, radio, and print), 20 percent for sports marketing, 12 percent for billboards, 10 percent for film marketing, 3 percent for co-marketing with Visit California, and 1 percent for analytics.
In May, the district received approval from the RACVB board, and 89 percent of local hotel owners have given preliminary approval to the plan, as stated by Crutcher during the council meeting.
The next steps involve notifying businesses within the district (most of whom have already expressed preliminary approval) and conducting two public hearings on July 19 and August 16.
If approved, the increased assessment rate is expected to take effect on October 1. The RACVB fulfills various functions, including managing the Ridgecrest Regional Film Commission, producing marketing materials, and participating in film industry events and programs in the LA area to promote filming in the local region and increase hotel stays.
Furthermore, the RACVB oversees the Sports Commission, which attracts sporting events to the area and organizes events and conferences such as the Ridgecrest Petroglyph Festival, the upcoming standalone California Classic Car Show, and the CCAP NAWCWD Industry Days. The bureau also engages in digital marketing and promotes tourism through the California Welcome Center in Ridgecrest and Visit California.
“As an organization, our primary objective is to raise awareness of Ridgecrest to the wider world,” remarked Crutcher.