Visitor’s Bureau presents case to twp.
The Warren County Visitors Bureau isn’t going down without a fight.
Last week, the Warren County Commissioners took the first step in making the Warren County Chamber of Business and Industry the county’s official Tourism Promotion Agency in place of the WCVB.
To formally make the change, the commissioners need to receive the support, via resolution, of enough municipalities in the county to account for over half of the county’s total population.
The WCVB made an impassioned plea to the Pleasant Township Supervisors during the supervisors’ meeting Tuesday night.
John McGraw, speaking on behalf of the WCVB, provided a little history on the WCVB for the supervisors. He said when founded, the Bureau was funded with $60,000 from the state and an additional $40,000 from the county commissioners. As that funding dried up, the commissioners instituted a Hotel Occupancy Tax at three percent to fund the WCVB.
“We live solely on the bed tax,” McGraw said. “This town has never been particularly embracive of tourists.”
If the tax money was given to the WCCBI instead, that decision “would put us out of business,” said McGraw. “There is no way to go if these people take our money.”
“We owe approximately $50,000 on our building,” he added.
Pleasant Chairman Arden Knapp asked, “What is on the Warren County Visitor Bureau’s plate for the next 12 months to bring tourism to Warren County?”
“We don’t solicit people in Warren because they already have a bed,” McGraw said. “What we try to do, and it turns out it is really good for Warren, we have our website and in our website we have an interactive map” that can assist tourists in planning a trip to Warren County.
“We are the only town that has a flagged hotel and we have two,” he said. “Nobody else on (Route) 6 has that.”
He noted that the state designated a “TPA for each county. Since there is money involved, a lot of the TPAs have had a problem with the chamber of commerce trying to get money.”
Marty Hinton, who serves on the WCVB board, said, “There is only one tourism program here in Warren County. COT (the WCCBI’s Council on Tourism) is not a registered entity. The Warren County Visitor’s Bureau is a registered entity recognized by the state, and COT is not. (COT) is just part of the chamber with the name tourism in it.”
Of the commissioners passing the resolution to strip WCVB of the TPA designation, Hinton said, “They passed that resolution without notifying us. They did not have to, but (as a) common courtesy they should have.”
“We are an open book,” he added.
“Do you have someone in charge?” Knapp asked.
Hinton said Terry Murphy. “She’s come along very well,” McGraw said. “She’s well-educated. She knows design.”
Ed Atwood said, “Winterfest will definitely be in trouble” if the TPA is changed.
The supervisors also asked the representatives from the WCVB why the office in Starbrick is often not open on the weekends.
“We are sporadically open on the weekends,” Hinton said, explaining that they have completed surveys that have shown Monday and Tuesday to be the most high-traffic days. “The majority of our people come in Monday through Friday,” he said, noting that they have records to support that assertion.
The concept of staffing the facility with volunteers was discussed, as well.
“I know it’s difficult to get volunteers,” Knapp said, “but I didn’t see you put forth effort to get volunteers,” such as a notice in the newspaper. Knapp said he plans to go to the WCVB offices to speak with the people there. “I’d like to sit down face to face with people,” Supervisor Ron Hultman added.
“We will look at it all,” he said.
Action was tabled until November.
In addition to Sugar Grove Borough and Pleasant Township who both tabled the issue, Sheffield and Southwest townships also are taking time to review the situation, according to officials.