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Discussion continues over tourism websites

Debra Moore

  The women gathered around a table at Moon’s share a common goal — bringing more tourists to Plumas County.

  While there were lodging providers and storeowners in the attendance, one lady didn’t have anything to sell.

  “I’m just a community member,” Karen Kleven said. “But I don’t want to live in a ghost town.”

  Kleven is a member of the Plumas County Tourism Recreation and Hospitality Council, a group originally formed to manage the website plumascounty.org, but that is now also focused on marketing the county in general.

  During the group’s Feb. 28 meeting, members discussed the tourism website, the possibility of starting a tourism business improvement district, and the need to unite chambers of commerce and other organizations that are dedicated to bringing more people to the county.

Websites

  The Plumas County Visitors Bureau managed the site for 16 years before the bureau was disbanded due to budget cuts. Originally Plumas County was going to step in and manage the site, but Plumas Corp., the site’s owner, elected to give it to the newly formed council instead.

  The county developed its own website last summer — exploreplumascounty.com — but doesn’t have anyone to manage or update it.

  Both sites are accessible through the county’s home page.

  While meeting attendees agreed that the county’s new website featured beautiful pictures and comprehensive local listings, it wasn’t kept current. For example, if a user clicks on events, there are no listings.

  The alternate site, plumascounty.org, is updated continually.

  “The beauty of this website is that it has so much content,” said Suzi Brakken, former executive director of the Visitors Bureau.

  When the county developed exploreplumascounty.com, it budgeted $7,500 for the site, but didn’t earmark any money for maintenance.

  Supervisor Jon Kennedy had volunteered to do some minimal updating to the site, but the site’s creator, Michael Clawson of Big Fish Productions, said it needs more attention than that and is developing a plan to present to the Board of Supervisors.

  Supervisor Lori Simpson, who attended the hospitality council meeting, said she wasn’t sure if there would be funding available to maintain a website.

  Marian Perron, owner of the Pine Hill Motel in Quincy, shared statistics that highlighted which websites provided the most referrals for her business.

  From March 1, 2012, through Feb. 27, 2013, the Pine Hill Motel received 1,099 referrals from plumascounty.org and eight from exploreplumascounty.com.

  The motel also received 111 referrals from Google Maps; 75 from Yelp; 36 from Kayak; and 14 from Facebook, among other sites.

Tourism business improvement district

  The council also discussed forming a tourism business improvement district for the county.

  According to a website dedicated to the topic, a TBID is a “stable source of funding for marketing efforts to increase occupancy” and it can provide many functions, “all of which are aimed at increasing tourism.”

  Typically a TBID is supported by a 1 percent or 2 percent assessment on room rates, paid by the visitor.

  Many areas throughout the California have established TBIDs to generate money for tourism, with the process taking from one to two years.

  Humboldt County is one of the most recent entities to establish such a district, and the hospitality council members plan to invite a representative from Humboldt to speak at their next meeting.

  Once the group has more information, its members envision hosting a countywide gathering of all hospitality providers to discuss the possibility of forming such a district.

  Additionally the group wants to bring all of the local chambers of commerce, merchant groups, and entities such as the Graeagle Plumas Alliance together.

  Valerie Nellor suggested hiring a facilitator to help the various groups come together with one common cause — marketing Plumas County.


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