LTAC recommends funding for marketing request, not C0-Op

The Ocean Shores Lodging Tax Advisory Committee (LTAC) has recommended full funding for the Convention Center and marketing efforts, along with a move of the Visitor Information Center to the Ocean Shores/North Beach Chamber of Commerce.

In a series of decisions on Oct. 23, the committee also recommended $15,000 for the Chamber’s efforts to promote and produce the Razor Clam and Sand & Sawdust festivals next year; $15,000 for the Coastal Interpretive Center, $10,000 for Greater Grays Harbor Inc. and its tourism website, and $3,500 to help Stage West Theatre.

Most notably, the committee specifically chose not to fund a $54,400 request by the Ocean Shores Marketing Co-Op, which has received funds from the LTAC revenue and the city over the past five years.

The LTAC decides how to spend hotel/motel tax proceeds and makes recommendations to the City Council, which can either accept or change the committee’s proposals. The committee is made up of a Council representative, Jon Martin, a public representative, Kathy Harris of the Ocean Shores Food Bank, hotel representatives in Kevin Cadle of the Shilo Inn and Becky Galsgow of the Polynesian Resort, and Piper Leslie, director of the Chamber.

The majority of funds the committee has to disperse — $1.77 million — goes to the Convention Center, which requested $923,313 for debt payments, operations, repairs and maintenance as well as some additional equipment, such as new dishes for the catering service.

That left the committee with $254,000 to allocate with eight formal requests totalling $386,000 — or about $131,000 short of funds to satisfy everyone.

Some of the requests were scaled back: The Interpretive Center had asked for $60,000 and Greater Grays Harbor wanted $20,000 after getting $10,000 from the city last year.

But the key decisions were to fund nearly all of the city’s marketing request at $165,791 and to discontinue funding support for the Marketing Co-Op group, which has promoted the city with its “More than a Beach” campaign on Seattle area bus panels, radio, a billboard, online media and other platforms.

The city’s marketing requests were presented by its new marketing manager, Diane Solem, who explained the intent was to create a critical research base and study of the tourism and visitor-based market, and then fund tactics that will be developed based on the research.

“I’m 100 percent in favor of it,” Harris said when the committee began to look at each request separately. “This is something we have talked about for all the time I have been in Ocean Shores.”

Without the marketing research, “We’re just throwing good money after bad,” she said.

Leslie agreed and said she was comfortable with the request, but suggested reducing the amount allocated for promotions until the full research is completed. “We might find out that promotions might not cost as much,” she said.

Martin said his biggest concern was the promotions for Ocean Shores would “go dark” during the period while research was being conducted.

“The Co-Op Marketing, whether you agreed with them or not, they have done a lot of work on their own” promoting Ocean Shores as a destination, he said. Martin also warned that LTAC funds might not be as plentiful in the future, with some events such as the Seahawks 12’s Fan Fest not likely to come back in 2019.

There was fairly wide agreement on the move of the Visitors Information Center to the Chamber across from the IGA because current VIC manager Cathie Parker is set to retire soon; and for funds to help the Chamber hire a promoter for the two festivals it produces.

“The biggest problem with the Sand & Sawdust Festival has been its consistency,” Cadle said.

The funds would allow the hiring of Scott Nagel, who also produced the Dungeness Crab & Seafood Festival and the Lavender Festival, both in Clallam County.

Although the members supported the Interpretive Center, they questioned whether it was appropriate to make such a large award, so Martin suggested — to unanimous agreement — matching the same amount the center received in 2018.

That was the same reason for the decision on the Greater Grays Harbor request.

The Marketing Co-Op effort received $60,000 in 2017 and $45,000 for 2018 from LTAC funding, with the Co-Op still having several efforts ongoing, along with funds left over to be spent from last year.

“Part of the Co-Op’s marketing strategy has been to do the heaviest Ocean Shores promotions during our offseason months,” said Dianne Hansen of the group. “We want Ocean Shores to be the number one choice for Washington beachgoers all year round.”

Hansen said the Co-Op has met with Solem and agrees with having Ocean Shores pursue a formal marketing program for the city, but she urged funding for “three to four ready to put-in-place campaigns” the Co-Op would like to begin. “Starting now we can blend our skills and connections,” Hansen said, adding that there would virtually be no marketing during the time the city does its research without the Co-Op’s effort.

The LTAC members, however, were hesitant to extend another year of support, noting there were $28,000 still left from last year’s funding for the Co-Op — funds Hansen said were largely already committed.

“I would like to make a recommendation that the city and Co-Op Marketing work together,” Martin said.

The final vote on all the allocations was unanimous, with Leslie abstaining because the decisions directly impact the Chamber.

The City Council will have its final public hearing on the 2019-2020 city budget on Nov. 13 during the regular council meeting, which is on a Tuesday.