What does it mean to be a good partner? Simply put, it means working together for mutual benefit. Whether in a legal business structure, a relationship, or a collaboration with another organization, the best partners are those who have each other’s backs and understand the value each brings to the party.
Visit Tuolumne County is funded by the county’s Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT). The Board of Supervisors recently approved a new ten-year contract allocating 18% of TOT (approximately $1.75 million) this year (down from 20% previously). Although the TOT allocation will decrease to 17% in 2024, and settle at 16% for subsequent years, it’s expected that the actual dollar amount will increase as new lodging and resort properties come online in the coming years.
Several of those new lodging projects are along the Highway 120 corridor, and that’s where our partnership kicks in. Currently, the Highway 120 corridor (Priest Station to the Yosemite gate) rakes in more than 40% of Tuolumne County’s TOT, way more than any of the other small, historic tourist towns and areas in our county. Remember, 82% of that TOT goes to the county’s General Fund for infrastructure and other essential services, from which we also benefit.
The bulk of VTC’s budget goes towards media advertising and influencer outreach in key domestic and international markets. These investments bring more visitors to the area who pay Transient Occupancy Taxes on their lodging bills, which in turn, funds more outreach programs. Programs like the Tuolumne County Craft Beverage Trail stimulate business for the county’s wineries, cider houses, and craft breweries. According to Visit California’s 2022 Travel Impact report, travel spending in Tuolumne County increased by $10 million over 2021, proof positive that the programs are working.
The Yosemite Chamber couldn’t ask for a better partner than Visit Tuolumne County, whose resources far surpass our limited supply and whose mission is to stimulate our tourism economy.
So how does Visit Tuolumne County return the investment to us?
In addition to advertising and media outreach, Visit Tuolumne County also allocates a portion of their budget to support community-specific programs that also attract visitors and stimulate consumer-generated buzz. The 49er Festival is a perfect example. VTC has been a high-level sponsor of the 49er Festival for more than a decade and we’re grateful for their support once again as a 49er Festival Partner.
Executive Director Lisa Mayo said, “Visit Tuolumne County loves supporting our local events that highlight our culture, heritage and local artisans. These events help drive new and repeat visitation and add something fun for our residents. We‘re proud to sponsor the 49er Festival once again this year!”
To help preserve the historic and natural beauty of our mountain communities, Visit Tuolumne County has also contributed to the Yosemite Chamber’s Main Street Beautification program (see last week’s Weekly for the Beautification update), and are allocating funds to each of the county’s chambers of commerce for projects that enhance the appeal of our towns, such as murals that encourage “selfies” and social media posts…keeping the “buzz” going amongst consumers. Your Yosemite Chamber is currently in discussions with Visit Tuolumne County on how we might apply those funds to further enhance our downtown area.
It’s no wonder then that when county staff recommended drastic cuts in Visit Tuolumne County’s funding, the Yosemite Chamber stood up for continued investment in our tourism bureau. That’s what good partners do.
As Hot Chili Charlie would say, "Thankee kindly, Pardner!"