Backpackers Tokyo

The Yolo County Board of Supervisors heard a report from Visit Yolo this week on updated efforts to increase tourism to Yolo County and the draft plans for the new Tourism Business Improvement District.

The Yolo County Tourism Business Improvement District (TBID), a five-year benefit assessment district to fund marketing, public relations and community marketing programs, was formed by the Board of Supervisors in July 2017. Unincorporated Yolo County and the cities of Davis, Winters and Woodland collect a 2% assessment and forward the assessment revenues to Visit Yolo, the hotelier owners association.

“Although tourism has not been recognized as a sizable economic interest for the county, the aggressive efforts by Visit Yolo over the last few years is fueling a pipeline to drive more travel into the destination,” said Terry Selk, executive director of Visit Yolo during Tuesday’s meeting. “More overnight stays, retail sales, restaurant purchases, even gasoline result in more tax revenue for the municipalities and the county to stimulate job growth.”

Three and a half years ago, Visit Yolo hired a marketing agency to help rebrand and refresh in order to implement strategic promotional activities to compete against other destinations that were courting the same target audiences, Selk explained.

Under a unified board of directors, Visit Yolo saw the strengthening of local, regional and statewide partners that has led to valuable opportunities and the increase in demand from travel sellers, promoters and media as a result of the enhanced marketing. Visit Yolo also sought events that resulted in room nights to help stimulate more business.

When COVID-19 hit, Visit Yolo pivoted marketing energies and resources around supporting local businesses and promoting lodging cleanliness and safety protocols.

Ad campaigns including a national ad campaign partnership with Visit California, a statewide campaign with Hearst Media, which generated over one million impressions, a sunflower campaign and a storytelling campaign launched during COVID-19 all helped raise Yolo County’s brand identity for anyone seeking travel to Northern California.

“A variety of social media campaigns telling the stories of what makes Yolo County a special place added appeal to visitors,” Selk explained. “Embracing our agricultural tourism prowess through the dedication of information and promotion of agricultural blooms throughout the year has spurred heightened interest.”

Participation in Sacramento’s last two Farm to Fork festivals and the nomination of Juan Barajas, owner of Savory Cafe in Woodland, also obtained unprecedented global exposure for Woodland and Yolo County, strengthening recognition of the county as the true farm to table destination, Selk said.

Visit Yolo is currently seeking renewal of the district as the current term of the TBID is five years and set to expire in July 2022. The new district draft proposes a 10-year term as opposed to the current five-year term, the inclusion of voluntarily assessed West Sacramento hotels and the ability to increase assessment to 4%.

The draft would also remove Woodland as a lodging district within the management district plan. However, voluntary assessment of Woodland hotels can occur at any time.

“We are committed to continue to promote the destination and as a result, developed a low cost membership program for non-lodging businesses in these areas,” Selk said. “In addition, a partnership program for these organizations, associations and events that would like elevated exposure under our global marketing efforts will be offered. These new offerings will ensure the entire county is represented to the consumer for the first time in the history of the TBID.”

The draft is also proposing monetization of the Visit Yolo brand through sponsored content, banner ads, co-ops and advertisements to allow for elevated messaging and additional revenue streams.

The supervisors were in support of the draft, however held concerns about a couple areas including the elongated 10-year term. Supervisor Don Saylor suggested a midterm assessment to address this issue.

“The city of Woodland has expressed very real concerns about this and I would like to see those addressed in some sort of a systematic fashion,” stressed Supervisor Gary Sandy. “It’s not meant to diminish anyone’s contribution to the agency and the great work they do. On the contrary, they’ve done some impressive things out in the county.”

“I would like to take a step back and reconsider some issues, talk to some of the other parties involved who have issues and see if we can’t bring back a better package for the future,” Sandy concluded.

This item is expected to come back to the board for formal approval at a later date.