By Andrea Papagianis

The Dana Point Tourism Business Improvement District was universally reapproved by the City Council Tuesday, after city leaders applauded the body’s work bringing the Elephant Parade art exhibit to town.

The district is a partnership between the city and its four major hotels—The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel, St. Regis Monarch Beach, Laguna Cliffs Marriott and Doubletree Suites by Hilton Doheny Beach—formed in 2009 to market Dana Point as an overnight tourism destination. Marketing campaigns are financed through a self-imposed, $3-per-night room assessment.

Representing the Chamber of Commerce’s board and more than 400 members, Heather Johnston, executive director of the chamber, urged the council to renew their agreement with the TBID after a successful year.

“Our members saw the direct benefit of having people come to Dana Point, they’ve shopped, they’ve eaten and stayed here,” Johnston said of the TBID sponsored Elephant Parade, which saw colorful Asian elephant statues around town for 10 weeks. “The city having the foresight to bring a Tourism Business Improvement District to Dana Point is only something that will be more and more beneficial as we grow.”

Council members praised the TBID for helping to brand Dana Point as a destination. Councilman Carlos Olvera was, admittedly, critical of the district last year and its efforts to bring the parade to town. Olvera recanted his negative remarks and applauded the hotels for bringing the elephant event to town. But expressed concern the parade took up too much city staff time.

Assistant City Manager Mike Killebrew said looking back on Elephant Parade things could have been done differently, but added staff gained knowledge to help bring more events of this caliber to Dana Point.

The city’s economy is closely intertwined to hotel success, as tourism related spending provides for about 50 percent of the city’s tax revenue.

The city collected an estimated $10.2 million in transient occupancy taxes—a 10-percent bed tax—last fiscal year, up about $700,000 from the year prior, according to a staff report. TOT is the city’s largest source of revenue. With approximately 1,750 employees, hotels are also the city’s largest employer, the report said.

Under state law, the city is required to reconsider its business improvement district each year. There is no cost associated with the city’s renewal. Attached was also a renewal of marketing services with the Anaheim-based Agency 51. Marketing expenses come from the TBID account.

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