Camas awards $30K from lodging taxes

Five groups set to receive funds for tourism marketing; LiveWell Camas plans Pride Month block party

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A Camas-Washougal Fire Department fire truck makes its way down Northeast Fourth Avenue in downtown Camas, as it leads the 2022 Camas Days Kids Parade, Friday, July 22, 2022. (Kelly Moyer/Post-Record files)

The city of Camas has awarded more than $30,000 from its lodging tax fund to five groups, including the Downtown Camas Association (DCA) and the Camas-Washougal Chamber of Commerce, for tourism marketing projects.

The City’s Lodging Tax Advisory Committee, overseen by committee chair and Camas City Council member Marilyn Boerke, voted May 21, to allocate $8,990 to the DCA; $10,704 to the Chamber; $6,100 to the city of Camas; $4,000 to Why Community; and $300 to LiveWell Camas from the City’s lodging taxes.

The City charges a 2% charge on overnight stays and uses the money for tourism marketing through government entities and nonprofit organizations. For-profit groups and individuals are not eligible for funding through the City’s lodging taxes.

This year’s lodging tax allocations will help fund a wide variety of events and programs, including the Chamber’s annual Camas Days celebration, held in downtown Camas each July; the City’s Hometown Holidays event held the first Friday in December; and for marketing materials the DCA places in the Columbia River Gorge Magazine and Scenic Washington and Visit Vancouver publications; as well as the DCA’s walking map showing downtown Camas businesses, restaurants, hotel and other amenities.

This year’s funds also will help pay for an update to the Chamber’s walking map, which is distributed throughout the Camas-Washougal area and included in relocation packets for new residents. The Chamber will use funds from the Washougal Hotel Lodging Tax fund to pay for half of the walking map update costs.

The city of Camas awarded $4,000 to the Vancouver-based nonprofit Why Community to help fund the group’s annual Santa’s Holiday Hustle, a holiday-themed 5K run-walk in downtown Camas that attracted 778 participants in 2023, and provided free race admission to 154 youth.

The group had requested $5,000 for the Santa’s Holiday Hustle event, and received $4,000 from the City’s lodging taxes.

“The economic impact for events similar to Santa’s Holiday Hustle (is predicted to be) $313 (per) athlete. For our 2024 event, with a goal of 1,000 participants, that would equate to an economic impact of $313,000,” Why Community President Sherri McMillan stated in her application to the City. “We can increase the economic impact of this event by having the funds to market outside of our local area to attract more out-of-region participants who will need to spend funds on accommodations and food. By marketing our event throughout Seattle, Bend, Spokane, Boise and Eugene and other large markets outside of our direct region and encouraging these athletes to come to Camas for a fun, festive weekend, we can significantly increase the spending in our area.”

The downtown nonprofit group LiveWell Camas, overseen by its executive director Jacquei Hill, asked the City for $500 to throw a block party during Pride Month, and received $300. Hill predicts it will cost $1,000 to hold the block party, which she calls “Camas Pride: Live Your Best Life.”

In her application to the City, Hill noted that the money from the lodging taxes would pay for advertising to “strategically target nearby cities through paid social media advertising campaigns.”

“These ads will highlight the vibrant and inclusive atmosphere of our pride month event, enticing tourists to join us for a day of celebration and unity,” Hill stated in the application. “By reaching audiences beyond our immediate area, we aim to attract visitors from neighboring communities, ultimately enhancing the diversity and excitement of our event and bringing in new visitors to Camas.”

The CIty’s Lodging Tax Advisory Committee funded all of this year’s requests, except one — a $3,044.60 request from the Camas Merchants Marketing group for a summertime “Explore Camas Passport” program.

“In January, a group of downtown business owners met to brainstorm ways to collaborate to further promote shopping and dining in downtown Camas,” Juxtaposition owner Suzanne Ferguson stated in her application for the Camas Merchants Marketing group. “An extended passport was one of several activities (and) promotions selected for 2024.”

The idea is to feature 25 downtown Camas businesses from June 1 through Sept. 31, with each business offering an activity the passport holder would need to complete to receive a passport stamp — for example, a passport holder could spend $10 at a certain business and receive a stamp. The passport holders would need 20 stamps to be placed in a drawing for a grand prize, worth more than $1,000 in products and gift certificates from participating businesses, Ferguson stated, adding that the group hoped to print 5,000 passports to distribute at participating shops and restaurants in downtown Camas, and would market the passport program through social media sites, press releases, printed posters and email blasts.

The group estimated it would cost $3,194 to get the passport program up and running, which included $1,700 to Reed Creative for graphic design, $483 to Reed Creative for stamps and $1,011 to PaperMaker Pride for printing costs and a sponsorship of $150 from Edward Jones.

Though the Lodging Tax Committee declined to fund the group’s passport project, Boerke later said during a city council workshop that she liked the idea.

“One award didn’t fit our criteria, but we hope it comes to fruition,” Boerke told her Camas City Council peers at their June 3 workshop.