City awards $250K in lodging taxes

Members of the Oak Harbor City Council handed out $250,000 last week.

The Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce was awarded both operations and marketing grants for the third year, taking in a total of $179,000 for 2018.

Each year, the council award grants to various group from lodging taxes, also known as hotel-motel taxes or 2 percent funds.

Under state law, the money can be used for tourism-related marketing; operation of special events; or operations and capital expenditures of tourism-related facilities owned and operated by a municipality, public facilities district or nonprofit organizations, according to Municipal Research and Services Center.

Staff recommended that the council set aside $250,000 for grants.

Last year, the council agreed to a contract with the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce to provide $115,000 in lodging taxes for 2018 and 2019. The money is for operating the chamber’s Visitor Information Center.

That left $135,000 in the grants to allocate. Of that amount, the chamber also received $64,000 for “Marketing 365.”

The program is to market all major community events in a long list of media, including travel publications, radio, social media, cinemas, SeaTac Shuttle wrap, Whidbey Island event publications, chamber rack cards and tourism packets sent via mail and email, according to the chamber’s application to the lodging tax committee.

The marketing program has an emphasis on the shoulder season, from October until May. The Oak Harbor Lodging Tax Advisory Committee’s job is to go over applications from different groups and make recommendations to the council.

This year, the city received 15 requests totaling $283,000. Besides the chamber, the highest award, for$29,000, went to Oak Harbor Music Festival.

The festival’s application detailed the success of the event; Sunset Magazine called it the No. 2 festival in the Seattle area.

The funds for the festival will be spent on hiring a professional production company to document the 2018 festival in video and photos to help marketing for the following year.

Two organizations didn’t receive anything. Neither North Whidbey Lions Club’s request related to the annual car show nor Oak Harbor Main Street Association’s request to help fund a golf cart trolley were awarded.

The awards are as follows:

Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce – Marketing 365 – $64,000

City of Oak Harbor – Whidbey Island Marathon – $ 7,500

Craig McKenzie Team- Hydro’s for Heroes – $5,000

• Fidalgo Avenue Merchants Association – Oak Harbor Pigfest – $5,000

• Island County Master Gardener Foundation – Whidbey Gardening Workshop – $1,000

• Joint Advisory Board – International Tourism Program – $ 5,000

• Megan McClung Memorial Fund – Megan McClung Memorial Run – $ 1,000

• Oak Harbor Main Street Association – Oktoberfest – $1,500

• Oak Harbor Music Festival – Oak Harbor Music Festival – $29,000

• PBY Memorial Foundation – Marketing and operations – $2,500

Whidbey Health Foundation – Tour de Whidbey – $ 3,000