The Herald Banner, Greenville, TX

November 27, 2013

GUEST OPINION: Convention and Visitors Bureau a wise investment

Herald-Banner Staff

GREENVILLE — A recent headline in the Herald-Banner detailed a possible plan by City Council to slash tourism funding to the Greenville Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB). The reason given was a concern that the CVB budget covers salaries, and it was questioned whether or not that was allowable under the law.

The answer is a resounding yes; it is allowable, and salaries are mentioned specifically in the law. The reasoning in the law is that organizations like CVBs would find it difficult to accomplish anything without a paid employee to do the incredible amount of planning and execution that needs to be done.

Take for example, the annual Rally ‘Round Greenville festival.

This past September’s event was the largest ever (by far), bringing an estimated three thousand people into downtown Greenville on Saturday night alone. Many spent the night in our local hotels, purchased goods and services from businesses all over town, as well as with vendors set up at the event. The city itself also benefited from sales taxes collected by all this activity. Altogether, it represented a positive economic benefit to the community of more than $500,000. The first couple of years of Rally, we were thrilled to get three hundred people into downtown Greenville in two days!

The Convention and Visitors Bureau also brought two conventions to town in the past year and made three others more successful. We organized several smaller events and assisted in the promotion of dozens of events and attractions organized by others.

The CVB develops and places billboard and magazine advertising, makes use of broadcast and social media and promotes the city’s attractions year-round. They reach out to individual travelers, as well as group tours. The Texas Travel Industry Association estimates that travel and tourism promotion efforts return seven dollars in income for every dollar expended.

Some residents may have a difficult time imagining Greenville as a tourist destination, but anyone who travels from more than 50 miles away, either for business or leisure, is considered a tourist. They spend money at restaurants, shops and gas stations as well as at hotels or motels.

The law governing the collection of hotel/motel taxes enumerates what those funds can be used for. They cannot, for example, be used for a new fire truck or for events that have no reasonable chance of generating hotel stays.

They can, however, be used for advertising, the staging of events or conventions and for the cost of operating a Convention and Visitors Bureau, including salaries.

Keep in mind that, with a few exceptions, the work of the Convention and Visitors Bureau is to bring people and their money to visitor attractions, not to the visitor bureau itself. We advertise the Audie Murphy/American Cotton Museum, bakeries, our local winery, area recreation and entertainment facilities, sporting events, musical programs and much more. Often it is the bundle of attractions that make a city a destination and only the Greenville Convention and Visitors Bureau promotes everything the city has to offer. We highlight the positive things about our community to the world and in the process remind our own residents that we have much of which to be proud.

The City Council is slated to vote on funding for the Convention and Visitors Bureau on Dec. 10. It would be a terrible blow to successful efforts which bring significant outside dollars into our local economy if the funding were cut.

Furthermore, by providing great events like this one in our town, we keep thousands of dollars right here in Greenville where they belong and bring a sense of pride to our residents who so enjoy them.

If you like Rally ‘Round Greenville, like visitors spending money at local businesses or just want to see our city prosper, please make your opinion known to your mayor and city council representative. Their contact information is on the city website, or deliver the message in person on Tuesday, Dec. 10.

The Executive Committee of the Greenville Chamber of Commerce/Convention & Visitors Center: Bonnie-Jean Stewart, Chairman of the Board; Amy Wade, Immediate Past Chair; Melva Hill, Incoming Chair; Eric Manskey, Treasurer; Jim Gonzales, Chamber Enhancement Division Chair; Luanne Dickens, Business Development Division Chair