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Frequently Asked Questions about Visit Huntington Beach

Who is Visit Huntington Beach (VHB)?
VHB, formed in 1989, is the official destination marketing organization (commonly referred to as a DMO) for Huntington Beach, Surf City USA. VHB is a leading economic development company, which reinvests visitor generated taxes and assessments to create more local jobs, more visitor expenditures in local businesses, increased tax revenues for local government, and additional overnight visitor stays in our local hotels.

What is VHB’s Mission?
To market and sell Huntington Beach’s Surf City USA brand experience as the preferred quintessential California beach destination leading to increased visitor spending and enhanced quality of life for residents.

What is VHB’s legal organizational designation?
VHB is a private, non-profit 501(c)(6) company. It is not a department of the City of Huntington Beach.

Do local residents pay tax revenues that fund Visit Huntington Beach?
No.

What is the benefit of tourism to Huntington Beach residents?
Combined state and local tax revenues, excluding Transient Occupancy Tax revenue, generated by visitors helped to offset the average Huntington Beach resident's tax burden by $497 per household in 2015.

Is VHB an accredited destination marketing organization?
VHB is honored to be fully accredited by Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI), the nation’s leading trade association for DMOs. Only 195, out of approximately 1200, North American visitor marketing organizations have received this highest badge of excellence.

How did VHB get accredited?
DMAI’s globally recognized and rigorous accreditation process team thoroughly reviewed VHB’s policies and procedures, financial reporting systems, return on investment accountability, long range strategic direction, sales and marketing plans, and other key components.

What are VHB’s Core Values?

  • Professional & Quality Oriented
  • Visitor, Partner & Community-Driven
  • Visionary & Strategic
  • Creative & Innovative
  • Transparent & Accountable
  • Sustainable & Efficient

How many full-time employees does VHB currently employ?
VHB currently has 12 full-time employees.

Is VHB’s current staffing level high or low when compared to other DMOs and industry standards?
The average number of full-time employees for DMOs in VHB’s annual budget category ($2 million-$4.99 million) is 15 FTEs (DMO Organizational & Financial Profile, DMAI, 2015). VHB employs 12 full-time staff, or 25% fewer employees than DMOs in the same budget category.

Have any of VHB staff achieved higher professional certification?
There are less than 400 Certified Destination Marketing Executives (CDME) in the world. Three of VHB’s 12 full-time team members are CDMEs. DMAI’s highly respected 2-3 year educational program offered through Purdue University is the accounting world’s equivalent of earning a C.P.A., but for DMO professionals.

How is VHB funded?
VHB’s funding does not come from taxes paid by local residents, including local property taxes paid by home and business owners. Funding is derived primarily from two dedicated funding sources, both paid by overnight hotel guests choosing to stay in one of Huntington Beach’s 23 hotels (2,450 total available rooms):

  1. Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT):
    Huntington Beach’s overnight hotel guests pay a 10% TOT per room per night. The City of Huntington Beach retains 90% of all TOT revenues, while VHB retains 10%.
    • How much TOT revenue is generated each year?
      For Fiscal Year 2015-16, total TOT revenue collections were approximately $10 million. Approximately $9 million (90%) of these visitor paid taxes go into the City’s general fund.
    • What can TOT revenues retained by the City of Huntington Beach be used for?
      TOT revenue retained by the City can be used for a variety of purposes such as street, sidewalk and parking deck improvements, police and fire protection, beach maintenance, park improvements, etc.
    • (Note: The average percent of TOT tax retained by City governments around the country is about 50%., with the remainder invested in destination marketing with the city's DMO. The City of HB retains 90%).
    • How much TOT revenue is dedicated to VHB?
      The TOT dedicated to VHB (one-tenth of the total or 10% of  the TOT) is used for sales, marketing, visitor services, and related administrative support to ensure estimated TOT revenue estimates are achieved.
      For Fiscal Year 2015-16, VHB will retain about $1 million of TOT revenue, all paid by overnight visitors. Since the inception of the City’s TOT in 1992, overnight hotel guests to our community have contributed over $100 million in TOT revenue.
  2. Tourism Business Improvement District (TBID):
    Huntington Beach’s overnight hotel guests pay an additional 3% assessment fee for each occupied hotel room per night during their stay. The TBID assessment is not a tax, but a self assessment, which the 23 local hoteliers place upon themselves for occupied rooms, and is paid by overnight visitors. TBID assessment revenues provide a more dependable, long-term, sustainable revenue source to market Surf City USA globally without any tax burden on local residents.
    • How much TBID assessment revenue is dedicated to VHB?
      For Fiscal Year 2015-16, the TBID assessment generated approximately $3 million.
    • How much is VHB’s annual revenue from these two sources (TOT & TBID)?
      Approximately $4 million dollars in FY 2015-16, all paid by HB’s overnight hotel visitors. In fact, a healthy and robust local visitor industry, led by an effective DMO, contributes many millions of dollars annually into the City's general fund. This, in turn, decreases local taxes paid by residents, creating and sustaining a winning formula of positive outcomes for the entire community. In short, tourism builds community.
    • What does VHB do with TOT revenue and TBID assessment dollars?
      Collectively, TOT revenue and TBID assessments fund vital, important VHB program of work areas, which greatly benefit our community and overall visitor experience:
      • Overall brand marketing for Huntington Beach, Surf City USA.
      • Traditional advertising in key visitor markets with over 1.1 Billion advertising impressions.
      • Digital and social media programs, including ownership and management of www.surfcityusa.com, with over 643,000 annual website visitors, 1.6 million pages viewed, 53,000 Facebook fans, 8,700 Twitter followers, 25,300 Instagram followers, 640,400 YouTube video views, and 43,382 visits to Surf City USA blogs. 
      • Public relations, which generated over 443 million in earned media impressions and $5.1 million in media value in FY 2015-16. VHB hosted 64 journalists from 11 countries in FY 2015-16.
      • Destination sales (conventions, meetings, groups), which last year was responsible for generating nearly $18.4 million in economic impact for HB by sourcing 404 leads, of which 17,774 hotel room nights were booked into local hotels.
      • High demand publications such as HB’s official Visitors Guide, Visitor Map and Historical Walking Tour brochure.
      • International and domestic travel trade programs targeting leisure travelers via trade shows generating 71 sales appointments, 12 familiarization visits (FAMs) in-destination, and sales outreach to 244 tour operators and travel agents in 5 target countries.  
      • HB Film Commission that works closely with the City’s Economic Development office to help generate 143 film permits in FY 2015-16.
      • Surf City USA’s Ambassador Program, with both a daytime program that served 2,687 people in downtown HB from May to September 2016, and a new nighttime ambassador program that ran from June to September 2016. 
      • Surf City USA Shuttle (a complimentary bus service) available for both visitors and residents, served 2,207 riders last summer.
      • Visitor Information Kiosk at the Pier, which is open seven days a week, served over 44,500 walk-up visitors in FY 2015-16.
      • Welcome Center at the Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum, which is open six day a week.
      • Free monthly partner information meetings designed to provide HB’s businesses with actionable steps to increase visitor generated expenditures for local businesses.

How many total annual visitors experience Huntington Beach?
The definition of a “visitor” to any destination can vary. The sometimes quoted annual number of between 11-15 million HB visitors is loosely based on the number of estimated cars parking at HB’s beach parking lots. This number includes local residents. For example, a local HB resident who has a beach pass and parks at the beach 20 times a year to catch some morning waves is included in this informal tally as 20 visitors.

VHB commissions a more robust visitor research study every several years, designed to provide a deeper and more scientifically significant analysis of HB visitors. In these studies, HB visitors are defined as “anyone who lives outside of Orange County and who has visited Huntington Beach for the day or stayed there overnight.”

Non-Orange County resident visitors to Huntington Beach:

  • 2011: 2.93 million
  • 2012: 3.48 million
  • 2013: 3.57 million
  • 2014: 3.74 million
  • 2015: 3.91 million

Which visitors are being targeted by VHB’s integrated sales and marketing plan?
Non-Orange County residents who desire overnight hotel accommodations in Huntington Beach (including Sunset Beach and all other non-resort hotel property locations) are the targeted focus audience of VHB’s very detailed and measurable sales and marketing efforts.

Who are these visitors?
The most current visitor profile in 2015 revealed:

  • Median age is 33 years
  • Household income is $71,800
  • Average number of nights stayed in Orange County is 4.4
  • Average size of visitor group is 2.5 people
  • About three out of four visitors (78%) are day visitors
  • Nearly 22% have overnight accommodations in HB, with 9% reporting overnight hotel stays, 12% reporting private home accommodations and a very small percentage staying in campgrounds
  • Almost three-fourths of visitors (73%) drive to HB, while about 25% travel by air
  • On average, HB visitors spent $310 per person, per trip in Orange County

Where are these visitors from?

  • Southern California - 42.6%
  • Western U.S. - 19.7%
  • Int’l & U.S. Territories - 13.7%
  • Southern U.S. - 6.0%
  • Northern California - 8.7%
  • Midwest U.S. - 6.1%
  • Northeast U.S. - 3.2%

What is the economic impact on the local Huntington Beach economy by non-Orange County resident visitor spending?
The last economic impact study of non-Orange County residents visiting HB was completed in 2016 for 2015 and the impact of these visitors was substantial:

  • Visitor spending: $519 million in direct spending, averaging $1.4 million a day. This is 20% increase over the past five years, from 2011 - 2015. 
  • 5,924 jobs supported by visitor spending, or 1-in-17 jobs in the City. 
  • Over $15 million in total projected tax revenue from visitor spending contributed to the City of Huntington Beach's general fund. 

How can I view a copy of the 2016 Tourism Economic's study, "The Economic Impact of Tourism in Huntington Beach, California"?

For more information, see VHB’s current Destination Marketing Plan and Annual Report (Fiscal Year 2016-17), the most recent Visitor Profile (2014), and other key research analysis.