Debby Moorhead made it clear: The Manteca Council member would rather spend $135,600 in motel room taxes to hire an additional police officer or firefighter instead of funding the Manteca Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Mayor Steve DeBrum didn’t go quite that far but he made it clear if the CVB doesn’t start delivering the city with data that clearly shows the annual investment of 20 percent of the transit occupancy tax is producing results, he’d join Moorhead in opposing continued funding.
The council on a 3-1 vote on Tuesday with Moorhead dissenting and Vince Hernandez absent approved a contract with the CVB that expires June 30, 2016.
Moorhead was sharp in her criticism of the CVB nothing they had received over $1 million in room taxes over 10 years and have never proven with hard data that their efforts increased room booking or expenditures at city restaurants stores, and other venues. Moorhead called the 9 percent room tax a “police and fire tax.” It was actually passed as a general tax by voters after police and firefighter association members went door-to-door to garner voter support. The tax had been in place but could have been ruled illegal unless voters affirmed it.
Moorhead added the CVB’s much ballyhooed effort to establish a “Gateway to Yosemite” visitors’ center they promised would open at The Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley as part of the space they occupy failed to materialize.
DeBrum, who has served in the past as president of the CVB as well as the Manteca Chamber of Commerce when Moorhead was its executive director, said he agreed with Moorhead in terms of the CVB needing to be held accountable.
“Tourism is a major economic driver in California,” DeBrum noted, pointing out it is a $38 billion annual industry.
The mayor said having an organization working to get part of that money for Manteca was important but added, “I do have my concerns.”
DeBrum was critical of the fact the CVB hadn’t been audited for three years. He also wanted to see the CVB step up efforts to generate more visitors to Manteca and increase economic activity.
“You’ve got to earn my trust,” DeBrum said making it clear that after the CVB receives half of the $135,600 in the next few days that he won’t support releasing the rest of it unless audit reports are satisfactory.
DeBrum noted Big League Dreams is currently filling up a lion’s share of the hotel rooms in Manteca and that he’d like to see the CVB work to get people attending tournaments to do other things in Manteca such as unique shopping opportunities at places like German Gals Werks and Tipton’s in downtown Manteca.
He said the CVB website was lacking noting he could find no references to BLD, Delicato Vineyards or the Spreckels Park BMX
That said, DeBrum said, “I’ve got all the faith in the world you can get it done.”
CVB chairman Jack Snyder pulled no punches.
He told the council he knew the CVB had issues. He also related how much of the board had departed in the past year and that he got the chairmanship essentially because he was the last one remaining. New members with livelihoods that all have direct ties to the tourism/visitors economy now serve on the board.
“We hear your concerns,” Snyder told the council.
The CVB with the current contract also promised to deliver on several endeavors
The Bring it Home Program will encourage organizations to bring group functions to Manteca with the CVB helping with site selection, planning and other assistance. Statistics show groups stay longer in a community and spend more money than families and/or individuals.
The Location, Location, Vacation effort would go after scouts to try and entice them to produce movies and commercials in and around Manteca. It would include creating more apps and hosting familiarization tours for directors and others on demand.
The Plus 1 program would help plan itineraries for visitors to multiple popular locations such as Yosemite National Park using Manteca hotels as their base. The CVB would also conduct a survey of hotel guests to find out about their Manteca experiences as well as provide incentives to hotel guests for lodging, dining, and shopping from local, merchants.
In addition the CVB website will feature concierge travel information for residents and guests who can obtain their requested information by email, calling or stopping by the CVB office. They would include — but not be limited to — scheduling sightseeing tours and shopping directions, providing directions to local attractions as well as events and hotels, help plan everything from corporate meetings and parties to family reunions in Manteca, and help bring more groups to Manteca.