PORT ANGELES — With lodging tax revenue at an all-time high, the city of Port Angeles has renewed a contract with Vertigo Marketing to promote the city as a tourist destination.
The City Council voted 7-0 last week to approve a $257,985 professional services agreement with Vertigo for continued marketing efforts in 2018.
“Whatever Vertigo Marketing is doing, it’s working,” outgoing Mayor Patrick Downie said at the Dec. 19 council meeting.
“Word is getting out that we’re a pretty cool place to visit.”
Funding for the promotional services agreement with the Redmond, Ore.-based firm comes from the city’s Lodging Tax Fund, a 4 percent tax on overnight stays at hotels, motels and other lodging establishments.
The “heads in beds” tax is taken as a credit against the 6.5 percent state sales tax.
The city had received a record $681,407 in lodging tax revenue through November.
The Lodging Tax Advisory Committee recommended — and the City County approved — $827,000 in lodging spending in 2018, including some reserves.
The council authorized a $230,000 expenditure for Vertigo Marketing at its Nov. 7 meeting and upped the amount by $27,985 based on new revenue projections.
“The lodging tax fund has seen, year after year, solid increases since Vertigo began its efforts for us in 2016, and these increases have been coupled with the highest room occupancy during the summer months in Port Angeles’ history,” Deputy Mayor Cherie Kidd said at the last council meeting.
“We’re ending the year on the highest-ever increase.”
Vertigo Marketing has expanded media outreach and marketed Port Angeles in new ways, Kidd said.
“Obviously it’s working,” she added.
Vertigo subcontracts with a host of local professionals and businesses, according to materials provided to the City Council.
Vertigo Marketing’s 2018 scope of work includes brochures, public relations, social media, website services, surveys, merchandise, photography, event and cruise ship promotion, bicycle tourism and advertisements purchased in various Pacific Northwest visitor guides and magazines.
“A great deal of work has been done by Vertigo to create innovation relative to the marketing approach for the city of Port Angeles,” Community Development and Economic Director Nathan West told the council.
The $257,985 contract amendment with Vertigo is the largest allocation among the 2018 lodging tax-funded projects.
Other major spending from the heads in beds tax includes $100,000 for Civic Field improvements, $100,000 for directional information signs or wayfinding, and $85,000 for events.
Earlier this year, the council directed staff to reinvest lodging tax revenue for tourism-related capital projects.
Councilmember Lee Whetham said the city “starved” itself of capital projects in recent years despite a nearly two-fold increase in lodging tax revenue.
“We gave all our money to mostly out-of-town companies,” Whetham said.
“We owe people that live here something tangible, something people can put their hands on.”
On average, the city spent 12 percent of its lodging tax revenue on capital projects throughout the past five years, West said.
Next year, 30 percent of the lodging tax spending will be on capital projects such as sports fields and BMX track development.
Marketing accounted for about 40 percent of lodging tax spending throughout the past five years and represents 31 percent of the spending in 2018.
Operating funds have increased from 23 percent to 29 percent in 2018 while event spending has dipped from a five-year average of 21 percent to 10 percent, West said.
West suggested that the council approve a “very balanced approach relative to lodging tax and relative to past years.”
“But certainly, I respect the fact that the council also wants the lodging tax committee to look at additional items for capital,” West said.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].