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Thursday, Jun 8, 2023


The San Fernando Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau may be down, but it isn’t out yet. The Los Angeles City Council last month denied a request by the bureau for $500,000 in funding, on grounds that Los Angeles is one city and should not have competing tourist bureaus in different communities. Talks are now underway, however, to determine whether the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Valley bureau can agree on a way to divvy up promotional dollars, said Michelle Namen, a legislative deputy for Second District City Councilman Joel Wachs. “If the Valley (bureau) and Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau can come to an agreement on who will be responsible for which promotion, then I think the City Council may approve money,” Namen said. Wachs filed the first motion requesting $500,000 in separate funding for the Valley convention bureau in April, on grounds that independent efforts are necessary if the Valley is to adequately promote its attractions. On April 14, the City Council turned down the request for funding, and instead instructed the Valley group to team up with the members of the Los Angeles tourism bureaus and other city officials to jointly develop an “action plan” for the Valley. Bill Allen, a Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau board member, said he believes the City Council voted against the funding because the bureau never had a chance to adequately make a case for why it should receive separate funding. He said bureau officials will attempt to show council members that the Valley bureau could serve as a way to augment the efforts of the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau, not supplant or duplicate them. Specifically, he said that while the L.A. bureau focuses its efforts on attracting large conventions with thousands of attendees and international tourists, the Valley bureau’s focus is on attracting domestic tourists and smaller business meetings with a few hundred or less attendees. If the council can’t be persuaded, Valley officials said that they hold little hope for a significant improvement in promotional activities for the Valley. “I don’t think we can reach our full potential without (bed tax) money from the city,” said Allen. “We’re already operating under a Plan B, which means using money from member dues and with the help of other Valley economic organizations.” The Valley bureau is attempting to be resourceful. It has drummed up enough advertising to defray more than 90 percent of the $100,000 cost of three full-color glossy books on the Valley that are set for release in May, said Allen, who also is president and chief executive of the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley. Some 40,000 copies of one of those books, a 60-page directory of Valley tourist attractions, will be distributed primarily to people in the travel industry. Also set for release is a 92-page resource book with practical information designed for companies or people who are interested in relocating to the Valley also largely paid for from ad revenues. Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau President David Iwata said the organization is increasing its efforts to bring in private money by beginning a corporate sponsorship program this year. It is now courting companies to become sponsors, though none have yet committed. Right now, the bureau has a yearly budget of about $25,000 from member dues. The group says it needs $600,000 a year to effectively promote the Valley. Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau spokeswoman Carol Martinez said a first meeting with officials from the Valley bureau to discuss cooperative efforts is expected to take place early this month, although it remains unclear what sort of plan could be produced. Some City Council members said they voted against funding for a Valley tourism effort because it was unfair to earmark money to promote one city area while other areas go neglected. Namen said this criticism could be overcome in the event of another vote. Martinez said the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau supports the Valley bureau’s efforts to secure private funding. However, it does not support the idea of the city allocating funds to the Valley bureau, even if it means no drop in the amount the Los Angeles tourism body receives from the city. “The best way to spend city money (on promoting Los Angeles tourism) is to represent the city as a unified place,” said Martinez, who said that this means having one city-funded body the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau, which receives $12 million of its $17 million annual budget from city hotel bed tax funds. She added that L.A. and San Fernando Valley organizations already work together to some extent, such as on occasions when officials from the two bureaus travel together to tourism conferences and jointly promote the area. Martinez said the Los Angeles organization would like to work with the Valley bureau in other ways, such as to make sure that there are no discrepancies in the Valley-related facts and information that the two disseminate. Allen said he is disappointed to hear the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau’s opposition to city funding for the Valley bureau. However, he noted that the decision is up to the City Council.

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