Any visitor who comes to stay in San Luis Obispo can expect to be greeted with smiling faces, beautiful scenery, locally owned businesses, and… the Transient Occupancy Tax. From a quick night in a hotel to a week-long spell in an Airbnb, every time a tourist stays here they contribute to tax revenue that adds to the city’s General Fund.
Since the City of SLO established the TOT, revenues have gone nowhere but up. And in fiscal year 2018-2019, the change was particularly impressive: a 7.3 percent increase, with total revenue reaching more than $8 million. The city originally projected an increase of just five percent, so with these record breaking numbers, the TOT’s revenue is looking stronger than ever.
So what exactly is this magical budget booster? TOT is collected by all lodging businesses in SLO, which includes hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, and homestays. As the third largest contributor to the city’s General Fund, this revenue makes SLO a happier, safer, healthier place to live. And the impact of tourism doesn’t stop there—in addition to boosting our General Fund, visitors spend hundreds of millions of dollars in the city every year, resulting in a stronger economy for local businesses and their employees.
The fact is that tourism is great for many types of local businesses, for growing our economy and for the overall quality of life in our region—and those are just a few of the reasons why the Chamber supports the City of SLO’s tourism efforts.
“Tourism brings life-blood into our economy not only by directly creating hospitality jobs for our region, but by bringing shoppers to our merchants, supporters to our arts scene and investment in our infrastructure,” said Chamber CEO Jim Dantona. “Every night that a tourist spends at our hotels brings brand new money to our economy that keeps our families employed, but more importantly contributes to our ability to pay for our roads, parks, public safety and more.”
The SLO Chamber works with both the city’s Tourism Business Improvement District and the Promotional Coordinating Committee to reach our shared vision of a vibrant and economically prosperous community. Located just below the large, retro-style ‘Welcome’ sign is the Chamber’s Visitor Center, a hub of information where we help and direct more than 80,000 people through our doors every year. Whether they are visitors looking for a place to stay or locals inquiring about a recommended realtor or plumber, our friendly staff is there to provide guidance.
The Chamber also leads the city’s tourism media relations, communicating the vitality and character of our community and promoting SLO as a destination to live, play and stay. In the 2018-19 fiscal year alone, our public relations reached more than 1.1 billion potential readers in earned media coverage. These efforts work to support our tourism industry, which in turn brings in more visitors, more TOT revenue, and more improvements to the SLO life.
Rather than increasing taxes for our residents, TOT allows SLO to generate revenue from the people visiting our beautiful city. This money goes straight back to improving the facets of SLO that residents enjoy on a day to day basis, like our parks, streets and open space.
So the next time that you’re downtown and you meet a visitor, stop and say welcome or point them in the right direction – possibly to the Visitor Center – if they need it. It’s not just SLO’s natural assets and quaint storefronts that make this a memorable destination— it’s also the friendly faces who live here.