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Santa Cruz Tourism Booms This Summer

This summer Santa Cruz had its highest number of tourists in 12 years. Was it staycations? Escapes from the inland heat? More promotion and marketing?

For a town that depends on tourists the way Detroit counts on car buyers, Santa Cruz was running on almost all cylinders between June and August.

Hotels were 79 percent filled during those months, an increase of 9 percent over 2011, according to a report by the Santa Cruz County Conference and Visitors Council.

It was the best summer season since 2001.

It was also above the average state and national occupancy rates of 77.5 percent and 60 percent. Those rates increased only 3.9 percent and 2.4 percent, respectively.

So what has brought in the high numbers?

A press release by the CVC says its advertising tripled and it increased use of smart phone applications to help guide tourists (available at www.santacruz.org).

The CVC operates on a $2 million budget, half of which is paid for by a lodging fee of $1 or $1.50 a bed, depending on the size of the hotel. Another $550,000 comes from the city and county and the rest is from private support and deals with local businesses.

The city of Santa Cruz charges a 10 percent tax on hotel rooms and voters will decide in November whether to raise this to 11 percent. This will raise an additional $470,000 a year, according to the city's finance director, Marc Pimentel, for a total of $5.17 million a year.

The rest of Santa Cruz County charges a TOT of 9.5 percent.

The money funds all city services and the additional dollars are intended to stimulate economic development by bringing in more businesses, jobs and tourists.

There are almost 4,000 hotel rooms in the county, according to the CVC and tourism brings in $513 million a year.

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