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Tourism Tax Issues

Greater Warrensburg Area Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center Tourism Annual Report for 1999-2000
As obtained from the City of Warrensburg
With Commentary!

Text of Annual Report My Commentary
Warrensburg is a city that emerged from a frontier gathering place over 150 years ago. Today, Warrensburg’s history and community pride make it a great place to visit. A strong workforce and affordable business climate has helped to create a diversified job base that provides the Warrensburg area with a secure and growing economy and included in this growing economy is tourism.

1999-2000 was a year of beginnings. A full time tourism administrator had just begun, we purchased a desk, computer, printer and began to develop new projects. This year we plan to build upon those projects that were successful.

    Activities for 1999-2000
  • Phone calls – 8697
  • Visitors – 1135
  • Welcome bags distributed – 5314
  • Web page inquiries – 22,941
  • Coop Mkting Funds - $8320.00
This report is a 1500 word essay without a lot of specifics on how tourism was benefited by the activities described.

The Tourism Administrator hired during this period was competent, but she left after the period covered in the report. The computer is essential as the tourism industry runs heavily off the internet.

The statistics provided do not show how many of these phone calls and visitors were tourism oriented nor the tourism share of contents and cost of welcome bags. I suspect the web page inquiries is a 'total visits' number and not a 'unique visitor' count, not does it indicate traffic on specific tourism-orineted pages, such as accommodations.

The Visitors Center worked with groups to bring 2,344 people for an overnight stay in Warrensburg. Each person received a welcome package about the community. On the surface, this appears to be a concrete accomplishment. Howver, nothing tells us who these groups were, what the purposes of their visits were or how many of these people stayed in commercial lodging establishments versus CMSU.
We realize that 8a.m.-5p.m. is not convenient for everyone visiting our community. In an effort to accommodate that market, the Chamber and Visitors Center extends its hours from Memorial weekend to Labor Day to stay open later during the week and 9-12 on Saturdays. A good use of tourism tax money - if
  • the people working extra hours are working on tourism projects, and
  • there is enough traffic to justify the expenditure.
  • The Chamber and Visitors Center worked with Animal Planet of the Discovery Channel in the Trial of Old Drum. The movie, starring Scott Bakula, Ron Perlman and Randy Travis, aired on Animal Planet in June 2000. The movie created much interest in Warrensburg and resulted in numerous phone calls and e-mails. The movie did generate interest in Old Drum and drove hits to Old Drum related websites, including my own pages. However, the story in the movie had almost no conection to the real story except for the character names.
    The Cooperative Marketing Program through the Missouri Division of Tourism provides designated marketing organizations an opportunity to stretch their dollars. During FY00, a brochure partnering Warrensburg with Powell Gardens was the project. The brochure listed annual events for both organizations and was distributed at the state visitor centers, Kansas City hotels along the I-70 corridor as well as Lake of the Ozarks hotels.

    The Visitors Center has expanded its horizons through the Missouri Division of Tourism’s Cooperative Marketing FY 2001 Project. This year the Visitors Center produced six radio advertisements that will run July-December. The ads will run on four stations through the state in an effort to create interest and awareness about Warrensburg activities.

    I have discussed their performance under their Cooperative Marketing Program projects in detail in Gadfly 99
    Warrensburg now has a new community video. The video is divided into three sections: general community, parks and recreation, and Central Missouri State University. We are looking into having the video put on CD-ROM. The video will be used in tourism and business recruitment and relocation to the area. Many businesses have expressed interest in owning a copy. I question how such a video as described here would be useful for tourism. If a substantial amount of tourism tax money was used in this project, it was misused.
    The Visitors Center has been working on partnerships this year. We are working with the Johnson County Historical Society. The Historical Society has placed a display case in our office to create interest and ultimately to increase traffic to the old courthouse, schoolhouse and museum.

    We are also working with the Johnson County Fair Association. This year we developed a brochure promoting the fairgrounds and rental facilities. We created a slide presentation that was shown to the noon rotary [sic] and will be used in future promotions.

    The Historical Society museums are among our premier tourist attractions. Tied in with the Old Drum story, money could be well spent on tourism attraction development.
    The fairgrounds are also an excellent venue for the county and properly promoted multi-day events could fill rooms in local accommodations. However, a slid eshow presented to a local civic club does not generate visitors.

    I would love to see specifics on what they have done for these attractions.

    The Visitors Center is a member of the Missouri rail Passenger Advisory Committee/Amtrak Focus Group. Through this group we learn of rail initiatives and work with other communities along St. Louis to Kansas City corridor to promote each other’s destination. Specifics would be nice - where are our brochures? Has Amtrak traffic to Warrensburg increased?
    The Chamber and Visitors center are members of the planning committee for the Performing Arts Series at CMSU. This year the series (formerly known as the Premier Performances) was rethought and expanded. The target market was expanded to bring visitors from further distances and encourage an overnight stay. There has been positive response to the changes and we will continue to change to create the best product. This was a forward-looking change, so results for those nights in the FY ending 9/30/01 will be interesting. I'll be looking at their data, if any.
    We submit our community information to various publications and web sites: Missouri Travel Guide, Missouri Calendar of Events, State Fair publication, Missouri Heritage Calendar, Kansas City Daybook, AAA. If that's the case, why does Warrensburg not appear in the Points of Interest section of the 2001 AAA TourBook? Our motels do.
    The Warrensburg points of interest map was expanded. The map now includes all hotel/motel/bed and breakfasts, restaurants, parks, CMSU sporting facilities, and shopping centers.

    The Old Drum Story has been shared around the world. With Old Drum’s popularity, the Visitors Center reprinted the 31 page Old Drum Storybook.

    The map is a proper use of tourism tax money.

    I would like to see some more details on how they shared the story "around the world." The reprint of the book is probably a valid use, but any proceeds from its sale should go back into the tourism fund.

    The Tourism Administrator is responsible for the Chamber and Visitors Center web site. The site is a work in progress, continually being updated and expanded. By expanding the site to include the most requested information, we have noticed a reduction in mailed out items. There's no doubt that the internet is an extremely important tourism tool, and the GWACC&VC page is properly designed to gain search engine visibility. Statistics from one in-town B&B's website indicate about 20 click-thrus a month from the GWACC&VC site.
    However, I'd like to see if the costs associated with the website are borne totally by the tourism tax fund or properly apportioned to the various areas included.
    The Chamber and Visitors Center updated the community tour this year. The tour shows visitors all that Warrensburg has to offer and really highlights the positive aspects of the community. What is included that is of benefit to tourists? What funds were used to produce this?
    Each year the Missouri Division of Tourism has a booth at Missouri State Fair. The division invites tourism-related organizations to share their booth for a day. We had a successful day meeting many new people and sharing all that Warrensburg has to offer. The effectiveness of putting out materials at the State Fair depends on the effectiveness of the materials and the choice of days.
    The Visitors Center was on the planning committee for the Lek Trek. The Lek Trek was a march across Missouri, sponsored by the Missouri Prairie Foundation, to benefit the Grasslands Coalition. The coalition walk was 565 miles through the best of what is left of Missouri’s tallgrass prairie. The walk began at the Iowa State line and ended at Prairie State Park. The Lek Trek traveled through 16 communities, which hosted special events. Warrensburg was the host community on August 31. The event took place at the old Johnson County Courthouse, schoolhouse and museum. The Lek Trek was an interesting event that did not draw the number of people that iit could have. What local publicity the Chamber may have done was only marginally effective.
    The Amtrak waiting room located at the Chamber and Visitors Center has become more visitor friendly. Brochure racks were added to display information from the Warrensburg area as well as other communities along the Missouri corridor. A large city map marking points of interest was put on the wall, new benches were added, and a permanent train schedule with a toll free number for Amtrak was placed above the pay phone. A good start. It also needs to include local restaurants and stores that would be of interest to day trippers. Unfortunately, most of these establishments are not Chamber memebrs so wouldn't be listed, anyway.
    The Chamber and Visitors Center worked with Central Missouri State University on Parents Weekend 2000. Local restaurants offered a special discount for parents, we provided accommodations information that was provided to parents and was posted on the CMSU web site. Community information was distributed in the Ed Elliot University Union during that Saturday afternoon. A good use of funds, if all accommodations collecting the tax were treated equally. A lodging availability clearinghouse function would have been even more valuable to both the parents and the lodging establishments.
    The Chamber and Visitors Center worked with CMSU campus activities on the 2000 Involvement Fair. The Involvement fair is designed to let the students know what the community has to offer. We invited all Chamber businesses to have a booth during the event. Twenty businesses were represented and had a successful day.

    The Chamber and Visitors Center took part in the Benefits Fair for CMSU faculty/staff. The fair shows new faculty/staff what the community has to offer. We gave out many informational pieces on the community.

    The Chamber and Visitors Center provided information to CMSU Alumni for homecoming weekend. We created a sign showing our support and placed it in front of our building along with school flags. Staff had maps, brochures, phone books and other community information available during the parade.

    While these are normal Chamber functions, their validity as a use of tourism tax money is questionable. I'd be interested in how funds were allocated.
    The old Bi-Lo sign on the property near the high school has been donated to the Chamber and Visitors Center. The grocery bag top was cut off and the sign was painted white. Banners were made welcoming people traveling west on DD to the community. The other side promotes the community calendar. We chose to hang banners on the sign so the messages can be changed as necessary. This is not a primary arrival route for tourists. The sign is longer there.
    Looking to the future, the Visitors Center would like to produce radio advertising again, but would like to expand the format to “blanket” the state. We will look at TV commercials, visitor information books for hotel/motel/bed and breakfasts. The visitor information books, a worthwhile and appropriate project, have never materialized.

    It's not productive to blow money on radio or TV when they haven't put any effort into attraction development.

    The Visitors Center is working with Best Friends Magazine on a feature story about Old Drum. The issue is due out next year.

    The Visitors Center is working DOGSWORLD on a documentary. This will be the first comprehensive anthology of man’s best friend in three-45-minute episodes. They will bring a film crew to Warrensburg to reenact some scenes. The documentary will air next year.

    Anything publicizing Old Drum will help draw visitors.
    The dollars travelers spend are recirculated back into the local, state and national economies and directly benefit other related industries who rely on tourism for their survival and growth. This multiplier benefits virtually everyone in the U.S., by generating tax revenues, which help pay for our roads, schools, libraries and parks. Travel spending also helps support shopping and historical areas, art galleries, museums and many cultural and community events.

    You may not see a tour bus carrying 50 people in town, but there are numerous cars with individuals and families visiting our community. They know that Warrensburg certainly is a unique place. From our exceptional schools to our diverse employment opportunities to our many recreational activities, Warrensburg is a progressive community moving ahead into the 21st century. We invite everyone to share in the spirit of our community and its growth.

    This is true; however, where is the estimate on how much was spent. Certainly, they have a firm figure for motel revenues (about $2.5 million based on tourism tax receipts by the City). They could easily apply a standard multiplier for an estimate.

    But tour buses generate the type of revenue motels like. And tour operators are interested in attractions, not schools and employment opportunities.

    As I stated in my comments on the 1999/2000 report, tourism tax money needs to be spent to convince people that we're a good place to visit.

    A complete annual report should list projects that are planned. Here's some projects that weren't discussed at all:

    • Attracting special events ('conventions') to CMSU, the Community Center, or the community building at the Fairgrounds
    • Upgrading (or replacing) the Old Drum Days festival
    • Lodging monitor & referral system (tracking vacancies during peak times to help desperate visitors and keep them in Warrensburg

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