Agoura, T.O. will partner to promote tourism

City of Westlake Village opts out

Source of this article: The Thousand Oaks Acorn, February 28, 2013

The Conejo Valley as a tourist destination?

That’s the goal of a new partnership between the cities of Agoura Hills and Thousand Oaks to market the region’s natural and cultural attractions.

The Conejo Valley Tourism Improvement District was tentatively given a stamp of approval at city council meetings earlier this month in Agoura Hills and Thousand Oaks. Public hearings in both cities are being scheduled for May to give residents the opportunity to learn more about the plans.

The district will raise money to promote tourism with a $1-per-room hotel fee from participating lodging businesses. Thus far, 11 hotels in the two cities have agreed to participate in the initiative.

The City of Westlake Village has opted out of the program for now.

“Two of our three hotel properties are not excited about the idea at this time,” Westlake Village Mayor Philippa Klessig told the Acorn. “Council is hoping that in the future they see the value of the proposal and we can go forward then. We wish our neighboring cities lots of success so we can make this happen in the future.”

Agoura Hills Assistant City Manager Nathan Hamburger said the cities have been working with Strategic Marketing Group, a consulting firm focused on the travel and hospitality industries, to create a brand for the area.

Officials hope that tourism will boost business in the region through overnight hotel stays and visits to restaurants, shops and cultural venues.

The Conejo Valley was identified by Strategic Marketing as a tourism spot because of annual art and family festivals, sporting events, historical sites and natural attractions like the Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area, state parks and proximity to Southern California beaches.

The Amgen Tour of California bicycle race finished in the Conejo Valley in 2006, 2010 and 2011, bringing worldwide attention and an economic boost to the cities of Thousand Oaks, Westlake Village and Agoura Hills.

All three cities have much to offer in the way of entertainment. In Agoura Hills, The Canyon club attracts people from all over the southland, as do the professional theater productions, concerts and speaker series offered at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza.

At the Agoura Hills City Council meeting on Feb. 13, Hamburger said bringing tourism to the region will help offset money lost when the state dissolved redevelopment agencies in 2011.

For every dollar spent on promoting tourism, $7 will be returned to the local economy, Hamburger said.

Agoura Hills Councilmember John Edelston said outdoor opportunities abound in the region. Hiking, biking and horseback riding are just a sampling of what the area has to offer to tourists.

Councilmember Harry Schwarz said he wanted all the cities to be supportive and suggested that the City of Malibu may want to become a partner in the tourism effort.

Hamburger and Jill Lederer, president of the Greater Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce, spoke in favor of the initiative at the Feb. 19 Thousand Oaks City Council meeting.

“Few options in economic development are pure win-win, but this is one of them,” Lederer said. “Already prosperous communities that never before looked to destination marketing as a significant economic driver now recognize that tourism provides a path to their target visitors—in our case leisure, family and business travelers.”

Thousand Oaks spokesperson Andrew Powers said, “The City of Agoura Hills has been a great partner from the beginning. They’ve been a driver in moving this forward.”

Not everybody favors the collaboration between cities.

Thousand Oaks resident Bill Martin said he is opposed to the partnership.

“I’m sorry, Agoura Hills is not Thousand Oaks,” Martin said. “Does New York join Newark in tourism efforts? (Tourism) is a mission better handled right here from our town. . . . We have a nasty habit of sending our dollars and work out of town. When it concerns us, I think we can do it ourselves.”

In response, Powers said the collaboration would allow the cities to spread out the workload and benefits.

“When you look at many of these districts that have been established, many of them are multijurisdictional,” he said. “Tourism is one of the things where it doesn’t necessarily pay off to be insular. . . . It’s our feeling that working in a partnership only helps to strengthen relationships across the region.”

Agoura Hills Mayor Denis Weber said tthe collaboration will be a “big step for all cities.” He was pleased that the Greater Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce was a partner in the plan.

“ It couldn’t be in better hands,” he said. “It just makes sense to me.”

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