Santa Monica Pier (File photo)

As President and CEO of Santa Monica Travel & Tourism (SMTT), it was my pleasure to welcome more than 300 members of the community to the Jonathan Beach Club yesterday for our 9th annual Travel & Tourism Summit. At the Summit, we Celebrated vitality and showed our gratitude for the people of Santa Monica and this place many of us call home.

This past year represented a record-breaking year for tourism in Santa Monica. During the event, we released the 2017 Tourism Economic and Fiscal Impact summary report, which demonstrated the vitality of our local tourism industry. We conduct this report annually to track the economic impact of tourism on the destination, and this past year found that tourism spending injected $1.96 billion into Santa Monica’s local economy, representing a 5.1% increase, with more than $54 million going directly into the City’s general fund from the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT).

The contribution of the TOT to the City’s general fund is supported entirely by overnight hotel guests. These taxes play a vital role in funding essential city services such as the exceptional police and fire departments, school systems, homeless services as well as the maintenance of the parks and beaches that make our beachside city a world-class place to live, work and play. Were it not for the TOT, each Santa Monica household would have to pay an estimated additional $1,379 in taxes to maintain the current level of city services. Tourism also generated 13,345 jobs that cannot be exported outside of Santa Monica. As a local resident, I am happy to share 83% of this overnight customer base report that they do not drive once they arrive in Santa Monica due to our many choices of public and private transportation options.

Visit California President/CEO Caroline Beteta was on hand to confirm that the growth within Santa Monica’s tourism industry and its impact on the local economy are reflective of the state-wide travel industry, pacing ahead of other states. California’s robust tourism economy expanded in 2017, fueling more than $132 million in travel spending, $10.9 billion in tax revenue and 1.1 million jobs in communities across the Golden State. Additional speeches celebrated the vitality of Santa Monica with speakers including Ted Winterer, Santa Monica Mayor and Rick Cole, Santa Monica City Manager.

We were also grateful for the opportunity to recognize members of our local community with several awards during the Summit. First, Heal the Bay and the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium received SMTT’s newly renamed Jeff King Santa Monica Tourism Champion of the Year Award in recognition of their unique partnership and dedication to making the coastal watersheds of Greater Los Angeles safe, healthy and clean over the past 33 years. Heal the Bay has pushed the envelope of sustainability with an impressive list of environmental victories and the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium places education at its forefront, having welcomed more than one million visitors.

Fernando Ceron from Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel was awarded the Thelma Parks Tourism Spirit Award with a 1k scholarship and a staycation for his exceptional service in the hospitality industry. A true ambassador for the hotel and our destination, Fernando has worked at the hotel since 1989 and has won nearly all Loews recognition during his career.

We also honored Raphael Lunetta, outgoing Chair, SMTT Board of Directors and Chef/Restauranteur of two popular neighborhood restaurants, Lunetta and Lunetta All Day. During his tenure with our Board of Directors, he provided steadfast leadership and helped share the soul of Santa Monica around the world. At the Summit, Raphael spoke to the importance of nurturing small businesses within the community to keep it successful. We thank him for his passion and commitment.

“It has been an honor to provide input to our beachside city’s tourism goals from a small business viewpoint,” said Lunetta. “Small businesses must be nurtured in this community to keep it successful and as a local business owner myself, I know how important it is to have a steady stream of residents and visitors from around the world to thrive.”

Our true vitality as a community comes from the power of our people, and yesterday’s Travel & Tourism Summit made me proud as ever to call Santa Monica home.