Birch Bay and the Mt. Baker foothills area will receive $153,000 in lodging tax funds after a unanimous Whatcom County Council vote on Tuesday, December 6, to approve a contract with the Mt. Baker Foothills Chamber of Commerce.
The contract will allow the chamber to promote Birch Bay and the foothills area in their off-seasons, chamber president Carole MacDonald said. The chamber will receive $153,000 in 2012 and will develop a tourism promotion plan that will be targeted at Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., MacDonald explained.
The funds come from revenue collected through the county’s lodging tax, which is a 2 percent tax paid by hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts. The money is collected by the state, and then distributed to a county’s incorporated cities. County administration decides how to distribute the funds to unincorporated areas, which include Birch Bay and the foothills area.
The promotions will specifically spread the word about the Mt. Baker foothills and Birch Bay areas as tourist destinations in their offseason months when tourist traffic is low. For Birch Bay, the offseason is non-summer months while the opposite is true for the Mt. Baker area.
“When the mountain closes [to skiing] at the end of April, there are still things to do but not many people know about them,” MacDonald said. “And Birch Bay is always there.”
MacDonald could not yet speak specifically about how the two communities will be promoted, but said promotions will include television and radio commercials, print publication ads and social media campaigns. The contract will require the chamber of commerce to produce a report detailing the 2012 marketing campaign and the projected marketing costs in addition to monthly reports throughout the campaign’s progress.
MacDonald said Birch Bay steering committee co-chair Kathy Berg was involved in discussions about the use of lodging tax funds for tourism before the contract was approved and will be involved in the committee that will decide how to spend the money. Business owners from the Mt. Baker foothills area will also be involved, she added.
MacDonald plans to gather input from business owners on the mountain and from Birch Bay on how best to promote the two communities so as to be most effective. MacDonald, owner of the Inn at Mt. Baker, is in the tourism business, and most Mt. Baker and Birch Bay businesses exist because of tourism, she said.
At the end of 2012, the county council will decide whether or not to fund the chamber's tourism promotion efforts for 2013 and 2014. The chamber stands to received a total of $400,000 over the next three years.
“Increasing tourism is what those of us in the tourism business are all about,” MacDonald said.
Full disclosure: Louise Mugar is a director of the Mt. Baker Foothills Chamber of Commerce and co-owner of Point Roberts Press, the parent company of the Mount Baker Experience, centered on the Mt. Baker Foothills area, and The Northern Light.