UPDATE, Monday, Jan. 14:
- Following Death of Visitors Bureau Director, Eureka City Council Postpones Upcoming Discussion on its Marketing Strategy
For years, the city of Eureka has given hundreds of thousands of
dollars annually to the local convention and visitor’s bureau to
promote the city to tourists.
But that oft-controversial arrangement with the Eureka-Humboldt Visitors Bureau (formerly known as the Humboldt County Convention and Visitors Bureau) could soon be coming to an end. At its next meeting, the city council will decide whether or not to look for a more Eureka-centric marketing plan for the city.
As made abundantly clear in documentation prepared by staff, at least some parts of city government have long been displeased about the Visitors Bureau’s laser-like focus on promoting the region’s redwoods as the primary reason to visit Humboldt County, sometimes to the exclusion of other potential attractions – including the cannabis industry.
More than that, though, the staff report suggests that the city – which currently pays the bureau $370,000 per year for marketing services, accounting for some 43 percent of the organization’s budget – might want to redirect those funds to an effort to sharpen the image of the city in particular, not only to potential out-of-town tourists but to locals and potential investors too. It says:
[A]s a part of the process of focusing our destination marketing efforts more specifically on Eureka, the City’s new approach will also include the task of thoroughly re-inventing the “Eureka brand” and how the City represents its identity and image (internally and externally). Eureka, unlike many places, actually has a story. A true, authentic story. This is perhaps our greatest attribute. Mining this story and discovering the layers in the past, then penning the future tales will be the essence of the City’s new approach.
At its meeting Tuesday night, the city council will decide whether it would like to prepare to finally discontinue its regular grant to the bureau and instead put out a request for proposals that would open the floodgates for pitches about how to use that money to promote Eureka proper – a city eager to develop a new image of itself. If the council chooses this route, the council will start routing its funds to this new effort at the start of the new fiscal year in July.
One person excited about the prospect of a change is Alanna Powell, the executive director of Humboldt Made. Her organization has been operating the city-supported Eureka Visitors Center in the Clarke Museum, where it has put on the summertime Friday Night Markets.
Powell told the Outpost this morning that her organization would most likely submit a proposal to the city if the council decides that it wants to go in a new direction.
“I think City staff did a stellar job in the background section outlining all the ways Eureka should and can be a prime Northern California travel destination. We couldn’t agree more,” Powell wrote in a statement send to the Outpost after a brief conversation. “Eureka has a lot of momentum right now. It’s inspiring to see all the positive changes happening such as new public art, weekly night markets, waterfront trails, benches, etc… A new brand and marketing strategy seems like a natural next step.”
But Richard Stenger, the media and marketing director of the Eureka-Humboldt Visitors Bureau, told the Outpost that his organization believes that the city could be playing with fire if it abandons what he believes are tried-and-true methods of attracting tourists to the area. The city gets a great deal of income from the transient occupancy tax – informally known as the “bed tax” – gathered from people staying in Eureka hotels. Stenger says that the bureau “knows where its bread is buttered” and always tries to promote the daylights out of Eureka as a place to stay and explore, but visitors need a reason to come here in the first place – and that reason, he believes, is trees.
“If you take the gas off redwoods and put it on something else, you’re going to see [transient occupancy tax] go down, I think,” Stenger said.
The staff report suggests that any organization — including the bureau — may submit a proposal if the council chooses to go forward with a new marketing strategy.
The Eureka City Council meets Tuesday, Jan. 15, at 6 p.m. in the council chambers at Eureka City Hall (531 K Street, Eureka).
- “Request for Proposals for Comprehensive Marketing Services,” staff report by the City of Eureka Department of Development Services.
- Draft request for proposals document.