DEL MAR — Del Mar hoteliers were forced to wait a little longer before learning the fate of the Tourism Business Improvement District, which allows them to charge guests an additional 1 percent fee that must be used for marketing to attract more visitors to lodging facilities in Del Mar.
Council voted 3-1 at the Sept. 8 meeting, with Terry Sinnott absent, to honor a request from Councilmen Don Mosier and Sinnott to continue a second public hearing scheduled for that night to Sept. 21.
They also set the final meeting, during which they will decide whether to renew the district, for Oct. 19.
The TBID, as it is known, was established in 2010 for five years. It floundered with marketing and management issues for the first few years, and the board of directors struggled to show concrete evidence their efforts were increasing hotel stays in the seaside village.
But the district seems to have hit its stride within the last 12 months, having developed a website hoteliers say is producing good results.
The TBID was set to automatically expire, without a renewal or extension, at the end of this month. Hotel operators initially asked for a 10-year renewal because the process is expensive, but council agreed in July to consider a five-year extension.
Going forward their concerns included how the money would be used, the length of the renewal, the TBID administration and what metrics should be used to evaluate success.
During the first of two required public meetings on July 20 council asked that two proposals be brought back for the second hearing.
One would extend the TBID for five years under the administration of the Del Mar Village Association, with quarterly reports and a clear set of metrics so council could monitor progress.
The other option would be to not renew the TBID, but give the DMVA sufficient funds to support the Dream Del Mar website and other downtown marketing activities.
The TBID also funds some downtown improvements and events, including developing the historic Del Mar walking tour, pedestrian directory signs and a Del Mar Village brochure.
Mosier and Sinnott said the first proposal is “pretty well defined” but the second “still needs to be described more thoroughly.”
They also wanted to wait until the full council would be present to vote on the matter. Sinnott is out of the country until the October meeting.
The Finance Committee reviewed the proposal from the TBID and recommended reducing the assessment to .50 percent, which would cover the cost of administering the website, and a one-year renewal with the creation of a simplified renewal process based on performance.
They also suggested requiring quarterly performance metrics that include estimated revenue based on unique visits to the website and click-through bookings.
Mosier said that while the committee report is helpful the reporting requirements “don’t accomplish the elusive goal of saying if you spend X amount of money on this program how does your return on investment get calculated because you’d have to know what fraction of people booked rooms in Del Mar through this website and that’s hard information to collect.”
Mosier said none of Finance Committee recommendations are new and the report “doesn’t solve the conundrum of how to evaluate the success of a marketing campaign.” He said it would be “unacceptable” to abandon the district because the success is hard to measure.
“I don’t think any alternative has been fleshed out,” Mosier said, adding that he was “embarrassed” with their work product.
Corti, who voted against the continuance, disagreed. He said council has been discussing the issue for months and a decision needs to be made.
Staff is expected to return at the Sept. 21 meeting with three options. One will consider a program completely independent of TBID.
Another will outline a scaled-down TBID focused on managing the website and related advertising hotel marketing. The final alternative will be based on the Finance Committee recommendations.