Business Tourism Improvement District Background
Developed by Bishop lodging businesses and the Bishop Area Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau (BACCVB), the Bishop Tourism Improvement District (BTID) is an assessment district designed to provide specific benefits to payors, by funding marketing and sales promotion efforts for assessed businesses. The BTID was initially formed in 2014 for a five (5) year term, beginning January 1, 2015. The district was renewed last year for a 10-year term, January 1, 2020 through December 31, 2019.
The district includes all lodging businesses located within the boundaries of the Bishop City limits, including hotels, motels, hostels and short term rentals such as AirBnB. Assessment rate is currently 2% of gross sales and is collected by the City of Bishop at the same time and in the same manner as Transient Occupancy Tax. BTID funds are then forwarded to BACCVB on a quarterly basis. BTID funds are used for tourism promotion programs as outlined in the BTID Management District Plan. No proposed changes to boundary, rate or business classifications are proposed for this year.
A Message from the Executive Director
2019-2020 was on track to be a banner year for the Bishop Tourism Improvement District, Bishop Area Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau and for the City of Bishop! The report given at the March 10, 2020 BACCVB Board Meeting indicated total revenue was up 6.4% from 2019. The souvenir shop inside the information center was bustling with sales 12.6% ahead of last year. BACCVB Staff had just returned from the Visit California Outlook Forum with two highly coveted Poppy Awards. Staff and volunteers were eagerly preparing for the annual Blake Jones Trout Derby just a few days away. We were following news of COVID-19 and started making plans to protect event volunteers and participants with extra handwashing stations.
Then…EVERYTHING changed as the Coronavirus situation became a CRISIS. We salvaged what we could of the derby and closed the information center to walk-in traffic. We paused all paid “Visit Bishop” ads and pivoted our messaging to encourage people to protect themselves and others from the virus. We quickly learned to Zoom and tuned into every webinar and virtual meeting hosted by travel industry experts, small business advocates, local, state and federal health officials.
While paid ads were stopped, we kept social channels open; posting several times each week on Instagram and Facebook. It is imperative to keep relationships with our existing followers. We’ve been doing our best to answer telephone and email inquiries daily with reduced staff. We’ve always treated our guests like friends and family, and they actually expected to hear from us during this crisis.
We kept people updated with current conditions, travel restrictions, local health orders and reminded them we’d love to welcome visitors again when it’s safe to travel. We posted photos of employees at local hotels and other businesses happily wearing masks while conducting business. We continue to let travelers know Bishop is a safe place to visit and we truly care about their health and wellbeing. Traveler sentiments have changed as a result of COVID-19. Cleanliness and health is a top priority. For the next few years, travelers will seek more rural, outdoorsy, drive-to destinations. Once all travel restrictions are lifted, the world of destination marketing will become fiercely competitive. If we play the cards correctly right now, Bishop is perfectly positioned to recover and even gain market share in the next few years.
I’m proud of the way our organization has handled the challenges of the past seven months. We’ve made tough financial decisions and personal sacrifice, while always keeping a positive, forward-thinking outlook. We are up for the challenge of leading our destination into economic recovery.
It is important to understand that this year’s budget must remain flexible as we continue to adapt to a fluid financial situation and ever-changing rules and restrictions on businesses and events. The travel industry has never seen a catastrophe of this magnitude and length, but we will bounce back!
As we write this, summarizing 2019-2020, we don’t have a clear picture of what 2021 will bring. With so much uncertainty in today’s world, we are certain of some things. We assure you we are nimble and responsive. We will carefully analyze every marketing opportunity and invest carefully for the highest possible ROI. We are vigilant and aware of the many things that affect a traveler’s decision to visit Bishop. We respect our natural surroundings and will continue to promote responsible recreation.
As we look back on this unprecedented year, we’re grateful to the Bishop lodging community for embracing and supporting the BTID. We’re also grateful to chamber members, community supporters, City of Bishop and County of Inyo for believing that if we pool our resources, we can effectively promote our destination for the benefit of all.
Bishop on the Move – by Civitas
The town of Bishop lies within driving distance of some of California’s iconic landmarks such as the Sierra Nevada mountains, Mammoth Lakes, Yosemite National Park, and Death Valley. Far from being overshadowed by these well-known destinations, Bishop is a major resort town with its own attractions like the Buttermilk Boulders, and its own claim to fame, like being recognized as a Top 50 Adventure Town by National Geographic in 2011.
While the town could have rested on reputation, Bishop instead decided to pursue further adventure by establishing the Bishop Tourism Improvement District (BTID) in 2014. A 2% assessment became effective on January 1, 2015, with funds set to be used for tourism promotion programs. The programs included carefully considered projects from marketing to trout stocking, as well as tracking and measurement of results.
The Bishop website was rebuilt and launched in January 2018. By 2017, the BTID annual report found: “78.3% are new users. This proves marketing efforts are working to create new interest. The new website is an excellent tool for measuring effectiveness of all marketing investments. The significant increase in organic search indicates brand awareness is increasing – people are searching specifically for Bishop.”
In those two years, annual occupancy also increased from 60.7% to 67.0%, equating to nearly 20,000 more room nights per year. There were even some increases in average daily rates during off-peak times.
In January 2019, the Bishop City Council unanimously approved the renewal of the Bishop TID for another 10 years, ensuring ongoing support for the “small town with a big backyard.”
BISHOP USED AS A CASE STUDY
Nestled between the mountains of the Sierra Nevada desert, near California’s eastern border lies the town of Bishop, known to many as the gateway to a myriad of outdoor activities in the surrounding wilderness.
“Our tagline is ‘a small town with a big backyard,’ and that’s essentially what it is,” said Julie Faber, the Digital Marketing Manager for the Bishop Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau. Faber adds that activities range from world-class hiking and bouldering to some of the state’s best trout fishing and bike trails. “It’s just kind of a Mecca of an outdoor playground.”
While the town attracts visitors far and wide through its peak season, the destination had always found it challenging to inspire visits from October through April, in spite of the fact that most of its attractions remain open.
Changing visitor perceptions of winter in Bishop
That is because the nearby town of Mammoth Lakes is well known for being a fantastic winter skiing destination, making it easy for would-be visitors to assume that Bishop is similarly covered in snow throughout the winter.
“Bishop, which is literally 45 minutes down the hill, is a high desert climate, and we don’t have snow, but people think we get buried in the winter just because of our proximity,” said Faber.
Not only are its hiking trails, rock climbing sites and bike paths open in the winter—with more manageable weather than the summer months—but Bishop is among the few places in the state that can offer fishing in the offseason.
“California as a state entity has a very distinct fishing opening date and closing date,” said Faber. “The majority of rivers are closed to fishing, but we just happen to have one of the best fisheries, and the portion that the majority of people fish is indeed open year-round.”