Businesses, Chambers and tourism groups in every destination through out the world are spending money to grow their tourism segment of their economies.
That is a wise move.
Tourism is a clean, responsible industry that brings in visitors anxious to shop, attend events, tour attractions, rent lodging, and pay the taxes that go with them.
Manufacturing, distribution and other market segments may sometimes seem more attractive to civic leaders, but those businesses are hard to attract, require years of courting and subject towns to intense review and – to many – rejection. Plus big industries can leave town far quicker then they arrive dumping lots of people out of work.
All destinations will have some luck and attract some visitors with good advertising, promotions, public relations and business participation.
Misguided Decision Making
Trouble is, however, many will fall short of their potential. Sometimes what the area offers just doesn’t compare well with other desirable destinations. But another big mistake is when local government officials fail to offer what consumers want. Today, that one big thing is tourists who ask for, and even demand, access to good, clean, upscale vacation rental homes.
For at least a decade the vacation rental industry has been exploding. Even during the recession the number number of visitors who demand to stay in a house or condo instead of a hotel room has continued to climb.
So it is surprising to find small communities, who beg for tourists and then kill the industry by disallowing vacation rentals or making them impossibly difficult to get approved.
On a recent trip to the Long Beach Penninsula of Washington State (the longest Beach in the world they say), a review of city and county rental regulations revealed a lack of insight but elected officials.
A clerk at the Pacific County office said, “We don’t have any rentals in many areas of the county and its surprising because some of the areas are so beautiful.” she then paused and added, “Or maybe that’s because rentals aren’t allow there.” Duh.
There is Much to Offer
The geography of the area is compelling. The land is pristine and beautiful with cute villages, attractive shops and periodic festivals and events. Oyster harvesting is big business with products being shipped and esteemed worldwide.
There are a number of conventional and well kept motels and cottages especially in the Long Beach area. But there are also properties that have seen better days and detract from the scenery. Many appear abandoned. They are not shabby chic, they are just plain shabby.
New home developments have been stymied by the economy, although some recent additions bode well for demand. Peeking out among nicely kept homes, are houses and cottages that have seen better days. Many of those, as well as some of the nicer second homes, sit empty year round including the busy summer season.
City and county officials have made short-term vacation type rentals illegal, or permits difficult to get. The up to $750 annual special use permit is one of the highest known in the country and requires begging neighbors for permission, and having the kind of inspections that would cause long-term rental home owners to go ballistic.
And for what reason?
Like most areas the reasons are usually that vacation rental homes “could” get used as party houses. Or that “Tourists drive cars through the neighborhoods and sometimes the trash isn’t taken out to the street on time.” complained one person at a county “scoping session.
No one wants trouble in neighborhoods but these possible issues never materialize. In jurisdictions where rental permissions is more easily obtained, but just as rigorously policed, and where owners must engage a competent local manager or management firm, problems never happen.
Pacific County even caved into neighbors in the desirable Seaview neighborhood who don’t want “to have different neighbors each week,” as the County clerk explained. Fear of problems is valid but refusing entry to visitors feels a lot like simple Xenophobia, the “fear of others.”
A local real estate leader, who wished to remain anonymous, said, “You know the reasons for the lack of vacation rentals is regulations, don’t you? Most people just won’t spend the money to see if their neighbors will allow them to rent.”
Other communities who enacted vacation rental prohibitions years ago, are seeing the light and choosing instead of allow them in all residential areas with proper permitting; and the requirement that properties be operated within reasonable rules.
The cities and counties gain fee income, shops, events and attractions do more business, additional jobs are created and tourism taxes flow into the area.
Let’s hope that Long Beach, Pacific County and communities like they all over the country wake up and stop killing the tourism business they so desperately need – by giving consumers what they want – many more vacation rentals.