To the Editor: Casino and tourism

Raymond Kelso’s recent letter to the editor included this sentence: “The economic analysis is grossly overstated. It is a well-known fact that, in spite of all efforts of the city and the Ridgecrest Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, not that many tourists come to Ridgecrest.”

Let me say the concerns pointed out in this letter have merit and the community should have a say in this process. I am not weighing in on any concerns other than tourism and the effects that benefit everyone in this community.

Let’s look at Mr. Kelso’s “well known” tourism statement – The hotels I operate have the most sophisticated tracking methods in the hospitality industry. So here are some actual numbers to chew on. Twenty-five percent of my business is leisure, meaning my guests are tourists. RACVB releases numbers that suggest the average daily rate for all the rooms sold in Ridgecrest is $85 annually and the average occupancy is 52 percent on 768 rooms per day annually. If you do the math and use my known 25-percent experience ratio, this translates to 36,441 tourists’ room nights annually or 99.83 room nights per day.

These tourists generated $3.09 million in hotel revenue and generated $309,000 in transit occupancy taxes for the city and $61,950 for RACVB TID taxes in 2016.

The Dean Runyon report, available online for those interested in actual reports on tourism for the state of California, breaks down county by county and then cities within those counties. In 2016 the total transit occupancy taxes collected by the city of Ridgecrest were $1,443 million.

Dean Runyon numbers – Kern County visitor revenue numbers are broken down into the follow categories for 2016:

• Accommodations $21918 percent of total revenue

• Food services $34228 percent

• Food stores $74 6 percent

• Local transposition/gas$19 516 percent

• Retails sales $21217 percent

• Total revenue $1.214 billion

NOTE – Some percentages are rounded and total percentage equals 98 percent - the numbers are in millions.

Using these percentages, the total hotel room revenue for 2016 was $14,443 million, and the categories after that equal another estimated $11,500 million annually for an impact of $26 million locally for all visitors to Ridgecrest. The Dean Runyon report for California is online and its calculations and data collection are well documented. Dean Runyon is an industry leader in this field.

Let’s go back to the casino for a moment and let’s assume the original 67,000 visitors who were proposed versus the 320,000 the TEIR report is now saying. If of these visitors, 25 percent would spend the night, it would generate 16,750 addition room nights at $85 per night or room revenue of $1,423 million and an additional $142,000 in transit occupancy taxes. The increase in leisure or tourist traffic would go up 39 percent. Even if this were half of 39 percent, it would be a true business bonus to our community.

As a tourist demand generator, if the casino is properly designed and marketed, it would be a sizable tourist draw to our community. In contrast, if the casino folks copy Bishop’s casino, I would agree that the tourism impact would be cut significantly.

As a manager of a hospitality business, I have had numerous guests ask about the casino, and they are looking forward to something else to do while they are here. The potential impact of a proper casino is a real demand generator.

Tourism is woefully misunderstood by the average person, simply because these people do not reside in the number side of my business. The simple fact is that all visitors to Ridgecrest generate $26 million to the local economy annually and 25 percentof that is outright tourists. To suggest that not many tourist come to Ridgecrest is an inexcusable untruth – and at best “fake news.”

Tourists are heavily taxed for the benefit of locals, require the fewest public services and generate an enormous amount of local revenue to our small businesses.

If you are opposed to the casino, use another reason other than tourism.

Daniel Spurgeon,

General manager, SpringHill Suites

Story First Published: 2018-02-09