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The 6-year-old Orange County (California) Tourism
Council May be Victim of Budget Cutbacks
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By Sandi Cain, June 2004 

In an effort to reduce costs to offset state budget cuts, OC supervisors are looking to trim the overall budget to $4.6 billion for the 2004-2005 fiscal year, down from $5.4 billion this year.

The budget is set for release later this month.

County officials say they need to make cuts somewhere as the state grapples with its budget deficit.

“With the hits we’re going to take from the state, something’s got to give,” said county Supervisor Tom Wilson. “All non-essential programs are at risk.”

Cuts to county-funded economic development programs likely would hit the Tourism Council, Arts OC, the Film Commission, Business Council and Office of Protocol.

The 6-year-old Tourism Council received $575,000 from the county for 2003-2004, down 23% from the prior year. The proposal under consideration would eliminate all funding for the agency.

“We’re prepared to share in cuts with everyone else,” said Doug Traub, chief executive and president of the Huntington Beach Conference & Visitors Bureau and current chair of the Tourism Council. “We just don’t want to see (the council) walk the gangplank.”

The move to eliminate tourism funding comes on top of a similar action at the state level shortly after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger took office.

Supervisor Wilson, who supported funding for economic development programs last year, said each program will be examined individually, but state funding cuts have put a damper on the county’s 5-year planning process.

The Tourism Council and other economic development programs slated for cuts will have a chance to make their case this week in meetings with county supervisors.

Local governments are under a great deal of pressure to offset the loss of state funds through other means, but governments need to exert care when they eliminate programs, said Jack Kyser, senior vice president and chief economist of the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp.

“Tourism is big business and an important business,” he said.

In some eyes, a decision to shutter the Tourism Council would be shortsighted, “considering the enormous economic impact tourism has on the region in terms of tax revenue and direct employment,” said Caroline Beteta, executive director of the California Travel & Tourism Commission.

Traub said the Tourism Council, a partnership of the county’s tourism venues and visitor bureaus, is especially helpful to nonprofits and members such as Mission San Juan Capistrano that have small marketing budgets.

Mark Feary, executive director of the Tourism Council, said funding cuts immediately would impact several programs, including:

  • Funding for more than 300,000 brochures about OC stocked at area hotels and John Wayne Airport.
  • Closure of the California Welcome Center at Westfield Shoppingtown MainPlace in Santa Ana.
Tourism-related businesses employ about 150,000 people in OC, making it one of the largest industries here.

More than 42 million people visited Orange County last year, generating $6.8 billion in spending.

Some critics of the Tourism Council and other economic development programs say the county is better marketed by the private sector—through Walt Disney Co.’s Disneyland, for example.

OC Supervisor Chris Norby says that tourism promotion groups are better off if they are independent from government.

But Feary said relying on private enterprise isn’t the best way to approach countywide promotion.

“The Disney message is not the Orange County message,” he said.

Visitor bureaus, he said, are set up to promote cities, not the entire county.

Today’s emphasis on the regional traveler also intensifies competition for tourist dollars. Los Angeles, San Diego and OC—along with other cities across the Southland—work to lure visitors away from Las Vegas, Arizona, Northern California and other regional destinations.

“We’re all in the same markets trying to get people to come here,” Feary said.

Las Vegas alone has a marketing budget larger than the total budgets of all the visitor bureaus in Southern California combined. And Arizona just bumped its marketing budget from $9 million to $11.6 million—with California travelers as one target.

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Sandi Cain is a freelance writer and contributor to the Orange County Business Journal and meetings industry publications. She specializes in hospitality, tourism and travel. Cain holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from Kent State University in Ohio, where she majored in social studies. A former high school teacher, she has written for niche-market sports publications in the U.S., England and Australia and formerly worked in both the printing and high-tech industries. A Cleveland, Ohio native, Cain hasbeen a resident of Laguna Beach since the late ’70s. She enjoys travel, gardening, reading and spoiling her three cats.
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Contact:
Sandi Cain
Laguna Beach CA
949-497-2680
scainado@earthlink.net

Also See Long before Walt Disney Bought Land for Disneyland Park in the Early 1950s, Walter Knott Planted the Seeds of the Amusement Industry in Orange County, California / Sandi Cain / May 2004
Cities from Anaheim to Laguna Beach, Rife with New Resorts, Look to Grab Summer Business; Sunnier Outlook Ahead for Summer Travel Season / Sandi Cain / May 2004
Tony Bruno, VP and General Manager of Disneyland Resort Hotels, Maps Out 2004 Changes / Sandi Cain / March 2004
Disney Planning for Big Year in Anaheim Amid Board Drama / Sandi Cain / March 2004
Tourism Industry Rethinks Promotion on Security Issues Data / Sandi Cain / February 2004
Orange County’s 50 Largest Hotels with Meeting Rooms Report 3% Jump in Space in 2003 / Sandi Cain / January 2004
Tale of Two Converntions; Las Vegas Versus Anaheim: Trade Groups Take Opposite Tack in Convention Plans / Sandi Cain / January 2004
Meeting Bookers Optimistic 2004 Will Mark Rebound Despite Potential Hurdles; Attendance Boosts at Recent Conventions Have Made Orange County California Hoteliers Hopeful / Sandi Cain / January 2004
Hotels, Theme Parks in Orange County, California Start Aggressive Push for In-State Visitors During Holidays / Sandi Cain / November 2003
An Oranges to Oranges Comparison; Anaheim and Orlando Share Tourism and Meeting Destination Bent, Differ in Some Areas / Sandi Cain / August 2003
New Coastal Resorts Helped Orange County, California Post Gain in Hotel Rooms / Sandi Cain / August 2003
Orange County California Hotel Building Remains Sluggish; Bright Spot: the Burgeoning Resort Market along OC’s Pacific Coast / Sandi Cain / July 2003
Sunstone Hotel Investors LLC and Tarsadia Hotels Expanding by Going After Weaker Hotels in Key Markets / Sandi Cain / June 2003
Orange County's Travel Agencies Continue to Suffer from a Downturn in Travel / Sandi Cain / May 2003
Hoteliers Worry as War, Economy Hit Bookings; A Weak Tourism Industry Threatens to Get Weaker / Sandi Cain / April 2003
Budget Ax Threatens Orange County's Tourism Comeback / Sandi Cain / February 2003
Pacific Islandia California Inc., Owner of the 489-room Sheraton Anaheim Hotel, Files for Bankruptcy Protection; Bankruptcy Over Dispute, Not Results / Sandi Cain / February 2003
Security Detail; High-Profile Meetings Have Police on Special Alert / Sandi Cain / January 2003
New Hotels, Remodelings Spur Growth in Orange County Meeting Space Amid Slow Recovery / Sandi Cain / January 2003
Security Detail; High-Profile Meetings Have Police on Special Alert / Sandi Cain - January 2003
Tarsadia Hotels Building Residence Inns in Garden Grove, San Diego, Buys the 201-room Crowne Plaza in Las Vegas / Sandi Cain / Dec 2002
Bucking Convention - Anaheim Center Expansion Seems to Pay Off as Other Cities Struggle / Sandi Cain / Nov 2002
Ayres Breaks Ground on L.A. Hotel, Expanding Two Others / Sandi Cain / Oct 2002
Orange County California's Hotels, Convention Center Upbeat Despite New Competition and Weak Economy / Sandi Cain / Aug 2002
Ritz, Surf & Sand, Vie With Beach Resort Newcomers Along California's Orange County Coast; Almost 1,000 rooms Set to be Added / Sandi Cain / Aug 2002
Orange County California's Hotels, Convention Center Upbeat Despite New Competition and Weak Economy / Sandi Cain / Aug 2002
Montage Founder, Alan J. Fuerstman Sees Big Things for Laguna Colony Luxury Hotel, Acquired from Marriott International for $190 million / Sandi Cain / July 2002
Orange County’s $6 billion Annual Tourism Industry Shaking off the Downturn / Sandi Cain / May 2002
The Orange Riviera - New Luxury Hotels and Renovation Projects Transforming OC’s Coast / Sandi Cain / May 2001 
Orange County Hoteliers Hope for a Solid Summer Season to Regain Momentum / May 2002 / Sandi Cain
Hotel Brokers: From Sales to Consultants / Sandi Cain / Jan 2002 
Tourism Officials Focus on Security of Events and Sites as Key to Attracting Visitors / Sandi Cain / Jan 2002 
Orange County Travel Agencies Bear Brunt Last Week, Waiting For Fallout / Sandi Cain / Sept 2001 
St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort & Spa Opening Adds to Competition in South Orange County California / Sandi Cain / Aug 2001 
The Orange Riviera - New Luxury Hotels and Renovation Projects Transforming OC’s Coast / Sandi Cain / May 2001 
Ayres Hotel Group Expands, Rebrands / Sandi Cain / March 2001
Orange County’s Hoteliers Relieved as Anaheim Convention Center Expansion Boosted Occupancy and Rates During Past Year / Sandi Cain / May 2001
Indomitable Disney / Bad News Doesn’t Tarnish the Mouse; Slowing Economy Another Matter /  / Feb 2001 
Orange County Hotels Poised for Meetings Growth; Newcomers Help Bolster Total Space; Disneyland Hotel Still No. 1 / Sandi Cain / Jan 2001 


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