Sonoma County Tourism cuts costs, looks forward to relaunching travel


Progress continues to get rid of the economic effect of the pandemic cold shower on tourism, but sustaining it will require the ability to “consistently, flex and engage,” a senior county tourism official said. Sonoma.

All work, however, requires the ability to “constantly monitor, flex and engage,” Claudia Vecchio, president and CEO of Sonoma County Tourism, said at the agency’s annual meeting, which took place. held virtually on September 29.

“As the landscape in which we operate becomes more complex, it also gives us opportunities to connect with people in organizations that we have not collaborated with in the past,” said Claudia Vecchio, President and Chief Executive Officer. the management of Sonoma County Tourism. “For example, we are thrilled to be part of the North Bay Leadership Council and the Sonoma County Transportation Authority Citizen Advisory Committee… helping to ensure that SCT is at the table of conversations that impact this destination as a place where live, do business and invite travelers, which is more important than ever.

In a virtual presentation of the agency’s annual report, Vecchio and his team summarized its performance for the 2020-2021 fiscal year and discussed the breakdown of its budget for 2021-2022. The agency’s fiscal year ends June 30.

Sonoma County Tourism closed the 2020-2021 fiscal year after making a number of changes to cut costs from its budget by $ 5.3 million, including downsizing, stopping advertising and promotions, and canceling contracts with its national PR agency and with international tourism agencies that promote the region, as Vecchio told the Business Journal.

During the meeting, Lori Angstadt, Vice President of Finance and Operations of Sonoma County Tourism, reviewed the previous year’s expenses.

The agency saved $ 110,000 by reducing the amount of space it rents at its existing location on Airport Boulevard, Angstadt said, and working remotely has reduced costs related to needs and equipment. desks.

Administrative expenses fell 20% below what had been budgeted. Business development, focused on corporate meetings and retreats, as well as weddings, saw the biggest budget drop, at 25.9%, due to delayed travel and reopening of businesses, has said Angstadt.

As the lockdown began to lift, the agency resumed its marketing and public relations work, resulting in a 7.8% increase in spending.

“New ads, videos and photo shoots were developed in the spring to both build our current recovery campaign and give us a better library of images for future campaigns,” Angstadt said.

Community engagement spending rose 12.6% as spending went to efforts to promote safe and responsible travel for those who still choose to visit. In April, Sonoma County Toursim entered into a partnership with Sonoma County Regional Parks and its national organization, Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. The partnership further strengthens the agency’s commitment to managing destinations or promoting sustainable travel, said Vecchio.

For the current fiscal year, Sonoma County Tourism has an estimated budget of $ 6.8 million. The budget, although higher than last year’s $ 5.3 million, is starting to climb towards its pre-pandemic budget of $ 8 million for fiscal year 2019-2020.

The majority of the agency’s funding comes from a 2% assessment of applicable accommodation rooms in the Sonoma County Tourism Improvement Area.

The breakdown for the 2021-2022 fiscal year is as follows: 19.6% for administrative expenses, 49.8% for marketing and public relations, 21.5% for business development and 9.1% for community engagement.

“We will continue to re-forecast our income spending throughout the year as things change and more information becomes available,” Angstadt said.

During the annual meeting, the agency presented its first-ever Stars of the Industry awards, honoring the region’s hotel workforce in four categories: Front of the House, Heart of the House, Customer Engagement and Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability. The winners, respectively, were Bianca Nicastro from Aperture Cellars, Tiffany Rodriguez from Costeaux French Bakery, Safari West and Benziger Family Winery.

“After enduring such a tough year, this was our way of saying thank you to these stellar industry professionals,” said Vecchio.

Cheryl Sarfaty covers tourism, hospitality, healthcare and education. She previously worked for a daily Gannett in New Jersey and NJBIZ, the state’s business newspaper. Cheryl has worked as a freelance for business journals in Sacramento, Silicon Valley, San Francisco and Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania. She holds a BA in Journalism from California State University, Northridge. Contact her at [email protected] or 707-521-4259.

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