Tourism & Our Economy
Tuolumne County depends on tourism! It’s the largest private sector employer and the biggest generator of revenue in Tuolumne County.
So what brings people here? It’s a mix of incredible scenery and outdoor recreation, lot’s of special events and activities such as the recent Mother Round Up Parade & Rodeo as well as the Amgen Tour of California, and unique historic and cultural attractions like Columbia & Railtown.
The scenery is permanent and the outdoor activities seem to get better and better. This year is turning out to be a stellar one when it comes to events. It’s the last category that’s in trouble and needs our help. If 10% of our visitors come here for Railtown (which may be low considering the market for this type of attraction), that represents $17 million in revenue!
Knowing some rail fans personally, it’s no surprise there’s this kind of interest. They travel the world to experience historic trains. Right now, Railtown is in trouble.
Legislation passed last year permits private non-profit entities to operate state parks however they still need local financial support to make it work. That brings us to Measure C. Right now it’s not only our best hope to keep Railtown open, it’s really our only hope.
Let’s set the record straight. The “new” tax is not new! Lodging facilities around the world charge an occupancy tax which costs local residents nothing: It’s paid for by visitors who stay in these establishments, not by local residents. Occupancy taxes are designed to cover the cost of infrastructure and public services used by visitors.
Measure C would extend the tax at a uniform rate to campgrounds and RV facilities. Since their average nightly rate is under $30, we’re talking about a nightly increase of less than $3. Would you change your plans because of an addition $2-3 per night expense?
Railtown is unique as an operating railway museum and as a film and television treasure trove. Both attract visitors from around the world. It is the epitome of the old west, come to life for thousands of visitors.
Despite what you may read, passage of Measure C will have little to no impact on RV parks and campgrounds and in fact, the Fairgrounds has opted to collect the same fee at the same percentage as the private establishments would pay, creating a fairer environment for private operators.
Measure C can also help the Fairgrounds as well as Railtown: both of which will suffer as a result of state budget cuts. Keeping these local assets alive is an important part of what brings visitors here. Since it doesn’t cost local residents anything, the decision should be an easy one.