City promotional tourism video met with mixed reviews

A promotional tourism video launched this week by the Discover Claremont campaign caused a stir among residents. The commercial, produced by Wallop Films, sought to entice Los Angeles residents to visit Claremont.

Ron Antonette of R. Antonette Communications hired Wallop last year to create the video. Mr. Antonette took control of the Discover Claremont campaign after the city authorized the Chamber of Commerce to administer the Claremont Tourism Business Improvement District (CTBID) in 2010.

Projects overseen by the CTBID through the Chamber include a promotional “Discover Claremont” package, which gives a $100 gift card to those staying in a Claremont hotel to use at participating businesses. The three participating hotels are DoubleTree, Casa 425 and Hotel Claremont. City records note that 77 of these packages were doled out in 2012 and 110 were sold in 2013.

Other efforts by the CTBID include participation in Discover IE—a state-supported marketing campaign to increase tourism in the Inland Empire—online advertising with Trip Advisor and the creation of Claremont Restaurant Week.

Hotel occupancy rates were monitored to measure the effectiveness of encouraging regional neighbors to “Discover Claremont.” As recession recovery begain in 2010, the DoubleTree recorded a 68 percent occupancy rate. By 2012, it rose to 76 percent with another increase in 2013 to 79.7 percent.

Casa 425 went from 63 percent occupancy in 2010 to 73 percent in 2012. Their occupancy remained the same in 2013. No information was recorded on the Howard Johnson’s or Hotel Claremont’s (Motel 6) rates.

According to the city’s financial report, the CTBID started 2013 with a carryover budget of $163,612 and collected $186,816 during 2013, ending the year with $350,428 at its disposal. Expenses for 2013 totaled $147,456.28, which included a $22,852 tab for enrollment in a Google paid search program, $5,702 to Trip?Advisor and $5,500 to the Discover IE Visitor’s Guide, among other expenses.

Before the CTBID, the city charged a 10 percent tax for a night’s stay at a Claremont hotel. In 2010, an additional two percent charge was added to each rented room. By the end of 2010, the city’s hotel occupancy tax had brought in $784,380, according to city records. By 2012, it had risen to a little over $1 million.

The CTIB started 2014 with a $203,071 carryover budget and, based on this year’s mid-year budget analysis, the city has taken in about $545,000 in transient occupancy tax from July to December 2014. The goal is to collect $1.15 million by the end of the fiscal year in July 2015, according to city reports.

Money raised through the two percent tax is given back to the BID each quarter to help fund tourism marketing, which includes print, television and online advertising, as well as the latest effort, the promotional video.

The commercial, which was shot July 18 last year, was inspired by the work of Wes Anderson. Mr. Anderson’s more popular films include The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Royal Tenenbaums. The plan, according to film producer Martin Glegg, was to play the commercial in theaters across Los Angeles and to launch a YouTube campaign to encourage travelers from LA to check out Claremont’s offerings.

Resident comments about the commercial were generally unfavorable. “Awkward” and “weird” were common descriptors and the overriding reaction—based on the 60 or so comments on the COURIER Facebook page—was that the film simply didn’t capture the spirit of Claremont.

“There is nothing in the clip that would entice me to visit this town,” wrote a resident. “It could be any town. It doesn’t capture Claremont at all.”

Another person wrote, “I live in Claremont and the video does nothing to describe this beautiful place. The narrator is incredibly awkward and kind of creepy. It makes it seem like a circus town.”

A few commenters’ critiques were tempered by remarks on the high quality of video production. One said, “This doesn’t feel like the Claremont I love. The cinematography is outstanding but the vibe and narrator’s voice miss the mark on how beautiful Claremont really is.”

The video has since been removed from the Vimeo website. Mr. Glegg said his production company would be “tweaking it a little” but it would be put back up soon.

Although the commercial had been shared through several media outlets, Andrew Behnke, past chair of the Chamber of Commerce and manager of the DoubleTree, said the film was not yet finished.

“The project is not complete and some changes will be made to the video,” Mr. Behnke said. “However, if you watch the video, the concept isn’t to hard-sell the city. It is to get people thinking and drive them to the Discover Claremont website. Kind of a non-judgmental piece that creates a feeling or a buzz, not the traditional hard-sell of shops and touristy things.”

—Kathryn Dunn


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