The Gadfly is a series of letters offering commentary on local issues and published in the Warrensburg Gazette.
In the last two weeks I've discussed some general and financial aspects of administration of the lodging tax by the Convention and Tourism Advisory Board and the Greater Warrensburg Area Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center (GWACC&VC).
One basic premise of tourism promotion is that you spend money to make money - to influence tourists to come to Warrensburg to spend money. People who spend the night spend more money. Therefore, the primary goal of expenditures from the lodging tax is to get more people to spend the night; day trippers should be a secondary market. Of overnight visitors, 'convention' or multi-day event visitors are most prized because they generally stay longer. Other visitors, to stay overnight, need the perception that there's something for them to do. The two efforts are called convention marketing and attraction building. I see neither of these efforts discussed in the Convention & Tourism annual report or budget.
Another question arises as to which businesses are promoted using public tax dollars. While the GWACC&VC certainly has the right, when using its own money, to limit promotions to member businesses, it is self-defeating to leave out non-member downtown businesses (antique malls, cafes, etc.) that contribute to the critical mass needed to attract visitors. It is also self-defeating if they omit attractions outside the City Limits (we know that they're partnering with Powell Gardens, so I guess they can list other attractions that are closer).
Instead, the Annual Report talks about a series of low-return efforts, doesn't tell what each cost, or estimate the success of each effort. The annual report is simply a 'puff piece.'
The city ordinance establishing the Convention & Tourism Advisory Board allows the board to "create such other committees as they deem necessary." The Annual Report gives no indication that such other committees have been created. Surely, you'd think they'd want to involve the Fair Board, local restaurateurs, antique merchants, CMSU Hospitality Department professors, operators of local attractions, etc. - people who have a background in tourism, in marketing, in dealing with visitors. The annual report doesn't indicate that they've tried.
At their October 14 meeting, the Board & GWACC&VC staff discussed some ideas for future projects and promotions. Some, if implemented, might work pretty well. But, the GWACC&VC and convention & tourism board will need to make sure that the follow-up on anything they do - especially website management!
[see also Gadfly 20, Gadfly 21 and Tourism Tax information.]
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