San Bernardino, CA
Last Tuesday, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors agreed to revive a program that assisted chambers of commerce in promoting local tourism for over thirty years.
When funding was reinstated last week, Second District Supervisor Janice Rutherford, who advocated for restoration of the program said, “Tourism is a growing part of San Bernardino County’s economy, and this partnership with our local chambers can help us attract even more visitors to experience our beautiful mountain and desert communities.”
According to Rutherford, the Board allocated $350,000 to the county’s Economic Development Agency (EDA) to fund a pilot program in support of the chambers. The money will be used to pay a portion of transient occupancy taxes collected in the communities the chambers represent. Visitors pay a transient occupancy tax when they stay at a hotel or private rental for fewer than 30 days.
The county implemented its first-ever transient occupancy tax in 1964, for the purpose of funding recreation. In 1980, the county began sharing these tax proceeds with local chambers of commerce to help promote tourism. In 2012, the program was phased-out when an audit revealed some chambers were using the funds for their day-to-day operations instead of marketing tourism.
Rutherford explained that the county hopes to avoid this issue in the future by establishing a list of qualified expenses, so the chambers will have a clear understanding of how the funds may be spent.
For many unincorporated communities, like Lake Arrowhead for example, tourism and real estate are their main industries; the board’s action offers the potential for a real boost to their economies. Robin Bull, Executive Director of the Lake Arrowhead Chamber of Commerce, said, “It’s critical to reinvest to make it [the economy] grow and this is going to allow us to do even more than we are already doing to promote tourism.”