Monterey County’s hospitality industry just got a whole lot less hospitable to short-term rentals.
The Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau board of directors voted Jan. 30 to exclude vacation rental businesses from its membership. The change was effective immediately for five dues-paying businesses. The move followed similar anti-short-term-rental decisions by the Monterey County Hospitality Association and the Pacific Grove Chamber of Commerce, after concerns that competition from vacation rentals was driving down hotel occupancy rates.
MCCVB Executive Director Tammy Blount says the board – made up of 30 representatives from hotels and inns, restaurants, golf courses, tourist attractions and local governments – is sharpening its mission to promote overnight visitation growth among properties that pay transient-occupancy taxes and pay into the Monterey County Tourism Improvement District. (While legal short-term rentals do pay TOT, they are not eligible to pay the $1 per night TID fee attached to hotel bills.)
The vote came as a surprise to short-term rental businesses. “We’ve been a little bit under attack and scratching our heads,” says Ben Edwards, a co-owner of Sanctuary Vacation Rentals. “I thought we were all on the same side of the fence, trying to pull in people to share Monterey County with them.”
Annee Martin, Sanctuary co-owner and president, says she was excited to join MCCVB three years ago, hoping to partner on tourism marketing efforts. She says getting her dues returned was “heartbreaking.”
Edwards and Martin believe there is room for both short-term rentals and hotels in the lodging market. “We really don’t see those guys as competition,” Edwards says. He argues that the average length of a stay in his company’s properties is 9.5 days, longer than hotels. Sanctuary manages about 90 homes in Monterey County, booking 2,000 reservations a year for more than 10,000 visitors.
The company is planning on going to the MCCVB board with “hat in hand,” Edwards says, to make the case for getting back into the fold – and back on a website that drives thousands of tourists to hospitality businesses.
Blount notes board meetings are open to the public, and anyone is welcome to come address the board members.
“We are all on the same side of growing the tourism economy,” says Blount. “The best solutions come from an ongoing dialogue.”
Vacation renters booted from MCCVB
By KELLY NIX
Carmel Pine Cone, March 9, 2018
A DECISION by Monterey County’s tourism bureau to expel vacation rental agencies from its mem- bership roster two months ago is “short sighted” and possibly “illegal,” according to a spokeswoman for one of the local short-term rental agencies affected by the move.
In January, the Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau decided to expel members that offer local vacation rentals. In response to the move, Debra Ryll with Monterey Bay Vacation Rentals, one of those businesses, wrote a terse letter this week to the tourism bureau’s president and CEO, Tammy Blount.
“The board’s decision is counterproductive and grossly unfair, if not illegal,” Ryll said.
Such rentals are a big part of the local economy and generate millions of dollars a year in transient occupancy tax for local cities. Ryll said she believes the visitors bu- reau suspended her group’s membership at the behest of hotels, which view vacation rentals as formidable competition.
In response to questions from The Pine Cone about Ryll’s letter, Blount said the bureau’s primary goal is to drive business growth by increasing overnight visitation at lodging properties that collect and remit taxes.
The bureau, Blount said, consulted with its legal counsel be- fore it changed the bylaws — “as we always do when making edits to that document.”
“Owners, operators, and promoters of vacation rentals, con- dos, single-family homes, individual apartment units, or any lodging facility or activity not authorized by local ordinance or state statute are not eligible for regular non-voting membership with the MCCVB,” she said of the bureau’s new stance.
The organization has contacted ve companies that don’t fall in line with its mission and offered refunds for membership dues that have already been paid, Blount said. Ryll said Monte- rey Bay Vacation Rentals has not yet been refunded.
The bureau’s position on vacation rentals follows a wave of local opposition against such rentals, which have long been banned in residential parts of Carmel. Paci c Grove allows them with conditions, although the P.G. Chamber of Commerce opposes them, and there is a petition to qualify an initiative that seeks to “preserve and protect Paci c Grove’s residential char- acter” by banning and phasing out existing short-term rentals in residential districts, except those in the city’s coastal zone.
More than 60 percent of Monterey Bay Vacation Rentals’ 100-plus furnished rentals are monthly rentals “which don’t compete with hotels, inns” and bed and breakfasts, maintained Ryll, who added that many of its guests have said they wouldn’t stay in the Monterey area at all if vacation rentals weren’t an option.
“Short-term vacation rentals offer a choice that is sometimes preferred by families and groups of friends who want the com- fort of a home, and a kitchen where they can cook some of their meals,” she said.
The visitors bureau also kicked out the Monterey County Vacation Rental Alliance. President Jan Leasure said the “vast majority” of its rentals are for 30 days or more, “so I fail to see how that interferes with anybody’s business.”
Asked whether the organization is considering suing the Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Leasure said, “We are not there yet.”
“We found [the MCCVB’s] actions inexplicable; that an or- ganization whose mission it is to bring visitors to the county would want to drop members who do that exact thing,” she said