By Jerry Brown
SACRAMENTO -- California's tourism industry approved a
referendum calling for the private sector to contribute at least $5
million toward travel promotion. The referendum to establish a
California Travel and Tourism Commission to promote the state
passed by a margin of almost 70% to 30%.
Beginning next March, businesses benefitting from the estimated
$58 billion in spending by visitors to California will be assessed
$450 per $1 million in sales. Most agents were effectively excluded
from the assessment by a clause in the referendum that stipulated
that only those who derive at least 20% of their business from
intra-California travel must participate. Because most retailers
sell vastly more travel outbound than they do within the state, few
qualify under the 20% rule.
The combination of the funds raised from the industry and the
state's contribution will give California about $12.3 million a
year for promotional activities initially, immediately elevating it
from 24th to 12th in tourism spending in the U.S. The act has the
full power of the law; individual companies may not opt out.
Besides a board of directors, to be elected from within the
visitor industry, the commission will hire a paid executive
director and other staff. The California Division of Tourism,
according to a spokesman, might be disbanded, with its activities
consolidated into the commission. Passage of the referendum, which
creates what is known in the state's laws as a marketing authority,
has taken about four years.