The city of Eureka is rethinking its $370,000 in annual tourism spending.
The Eureka City Council voted unanimously last night to take a markedly different approach to attracting tourists by putting its $370,000 in annual marketing funding out to bid, potentially ending its decades-long funding relationship with the Eureka-Humboldt Visitors Bureau.
For decades, the city has contracted with the bureau — formerly the Humboldt County Convention and Visitors bureau — to market and promote the city, giving it a portion of its transient occupancy tax that currently equals about $370,000 in annual funding. The bureau’s long-standing approach has been to largely focus on marketing and promoting the redwoods, a global draw, counting on the trees to bring tourists to the area and “put heads in beds,” eat at local restaurants and — ideally — stay an extra day or two.
The city, however, for years has felt it gets short-shrift in the relationship, as the bureau markets the entirety of Humboldt County while Eureka provides about 43 percent of its funding. (The county of Humboldt contributes about $350,000 annually and Ferndale contributes about $3,000 annually, in addition to the membership dues the bureau receives from local businesses that benefit from its marketing services.)
So last month
the city indicated it was considering taking a new approach, with staff asking the council
to put out a request for proposals for a more Eureka-centric marketing approach.
“Staff proposes that Eureka deliberately and strategically shift its funding and destination marketing efforts toward a marketing strategy that concentrates specifically on Eureka while simultaneously expanding the target audience to include local/regional residents and the local business community,” a staff report for the issue states. “A primary mission of the city’s new strategy is to promote the city of Eureka not only as a desirable destination but also an amazing place to live.”
Richard Stenger, the bureau’s interim executive director, who stepped into the role after the bureau’s longtime Executive Director Tony Smithers
died unexpectedly last month, addressed the council and cautioned against the city moving away from its decades-long relationship with the bureau. The gist of Stenger’s point is that the bureau’s approach has been delivering, increasing bed tax revenue and tourism spending in town.
“We know where our bread is buttered and we take care of Eureka in every format and in every venue we possibly can,” he said.
While each member of the council expressed gratitude for the bureau’s decades of work and hope that it would submit a proposal to meet the city’s new marketing approach, the council ultimately voted unanimously to move forward with courting all suitors for new marketing proposals.
With the council’s vote, the city is now releasing the request for proposals today, requiring that they be submitted in April so the council can decide on one before the city’s current contract with the bureau expires July 1.