Via Google Streetview

The California Welcome Center can’t keep its doors open if it doesn’t find some help soon, Arcata Chamber of Commerce executive director Sandy Scott told KHUM today.

According to a press release, the chamber is “looking for new partners in running the CWC or another organization to take it over. Our hope is that this will lead to positive discussions about its value to the tourism industry in Humboldt County.”

Part of a statewide network, the local California Welcome Center [CWC] franchisee is managed by the chamber, which Scott said absorbs its ~$30,000 deficit annually.

“We pay for the privilege of having this as a franchise,” she said in a followup interview. She emphasized that CWC sends tourists to points all over Humboldt, not just Arcata. “We’re honored to be serving the whole county.”

Asked to explain the value of the CWC, Scott said it “supports local business, and that what we want to do - help our local businesses be and stay successful.” Hear her elevator pitch below:

Scott’s Elevator Pitch

Scott is “very optimistic” that a solution will arise in time. She said that despite Yelp and GPS-assisted mobile search options, visitors still appreciate the human touch. 

“We just had two, maybe 21 or 22 year-olds in here and they walked away with brochures even though they had their smartphone in their hand. People like to have that.

Certainly it’s probably less imperative than it was 30 years ago, but people still like to walk in and have that personal contact. Sometimes we’ll ask them how can we help them, and they don’t even know what questions to ask.”

Hear the full KHUM interview below. 

Scott KHUM audio

From the Arcata Chamber of Commerce:

Dear Members,

We are writing to inform you of discussions about the California Welcome Center (CWC) in Arcata, which is housed and managed by the Arcata Chamber of Commerce.

The Chamber Board has determined that we need to make changes in the way the CWC is run, making it more effective and self-sufficient. We are seeking partners to play a larger role in helping with the CWC, or, alternately, another organization to take over stewardship of it.

The CWC has been a major project of the Arcata Chamber for the last 15 years. It hosts nearly 15,000 visitors annually, and they all get a warm greeting along with tips about things to do, places to eat, and lodging. The link to the larger network of California Welcome Centers throughout the state is positive. We believe the Center plays an important role in serving visitors, which, in turn, benefits the businesses and economy of our region. That’s why we’ve worked hard to keep it active and functioning.

However, the CWC has also become more than the Arcata Chamber can handle on our own.

This is a reality that the Board has had to acknowledge after many months of discussions. The primary reason is financial. Over the years, and especially during the recent recession, the Chamber’s funding from other organizations has slowly dwindled, while costs have continued to rise. That’s not to cast blame, but it is the reality, and we don’t expect that prior levels of funding will be restored. We’re also not prepared to ask Chamber members to pay higher dues to subsidize the CWC.

That leaves us looking for new partners in running the CWC or another organization to take it over. Our hope is that this will lead to positive discussions about its value to the tourism industry in Humboldt County. Our goal, ultimately, is a stronger CWC and a Chamber of Commerce that is more financially secure.

We hope to have a plan in place by September of this year, with changes underway no later than December, and we will strive to keep you informed. Feel free to contact us at 822.3619 if you have questions or concerns.