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Lillian Boyd, Dana Point Times

Visit Dana Point, a marketing organization created in 2016 by the city’s Tourism Business Improvement District (TBID) to attract tourists to town, has been temporarily suspended due to the impacts of COVID-19.

The entity’s board of directors met via teleconference on Tuesday, Sept. 22, to consider the decision to halt operations. The board includes representatives from the four largest hotels in Dana Point: Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa; Doubletree Suites by Hilton Hotel Doheny Beach; The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel; and Monarch Beach Resort.

While the board’s chairman, Jim Samuels—the managing director at Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa—was absent from the meeting due to a personal matter, the directors in attendance voted unanimously to suspend operations temporarily, effective on Oct. 1. The Visit Dana Point Board of Directors plans to convene monthly to reevaluate the current travel climate and COVID-19 restrictions to determine when there is a renewed demand for the services of Visit Dana Point.

“The Visit Dana Point Board of Directors has worked diligently to protect the organization’s monetary reserves over the past months since COVID-19 rocked the travel industry, and is now taking proactive steps to continue to do so until resources can best be utilized: when a greater demand for group and leisure tourism returns,” an email to Dana Point Times stated on behalf of the board. “At that time, the funds will once again be employed to continue positioning Dana Point as a premier travel destination.”

A previous TBID that had been formed in 2008 pursuant to the Business Area Law of 1989 was formed by the four large hotels to collectively market Dana Point as a destination. In November, the Dana Point TBID expanded to include seven additional hotels, requiring them to charge a room fee that would pay into marketing the city.

The DPTBID has a five-year term that began July 1 and will continue through June 30, 2025. The city was, and will continue to be, responsible for collecting the assessments on behalf of the TBID.

Dana Point City Manager Mike Killebrew says there is great concern for the city regarding the lack of group business that typically carries local resorts through the fall, winter and spring.

“Until State or local health authorities provide guidance related to group gatherings, this significant portion of business remains uncertain,” Killebrew said. “Preserving VDP funds for when they can more effectively impact our hospitality community is practical.”

“The State of California’s restrictions on gathering sizes as a result of COVID-19 has rendered group tourism business in Dana Point nonexistent,” the board’s statement said. “That, coupled with a decreased demand for travel across the board, has resulted in reduced hotel occupancy, creating revenue loss throughout the entire destination.”

The statement added that the industry anticipates these impacts to be even greater in the months ahead.

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