State travel and tourism official extends his support to WCVB

Rob Fulton, president and chief executive officer of the Pennsylvania Association of Travel and Tourism, vistited the Warren County Visitors Bureau during its open house Thursday evening as a show of support for the organization.

The Warren County Commissioners enacted a resolution last month to change the county’s official Tourism Promotion Agency from the Warren County Visitors Bureau to the Warren County Chamber of Business and Industry. Along with the designation is approximately $140,000 in Hotel Occupancy Tax revenue that must be allocated specifically for tourism.

Municipalities representing more than 50 percent of the county’s population are required to approve the Warren County Commissioners’ plan to designate the Warren County Chamber of Business and Industry as the county’s Tourism Promotion Agency as of Jan. 1.

Fulton said in an email last week that if the municipalities don’t vote to approve the commissioners’ resolution the TPA designation will stay in place at the WCVB.

“The municipalities have to endorse and approve by at least 50 percent that county resolution. The hotel tax continues to go to whoever is the designated TPA. If there is hotel tax there has to be a designated TPA that it goes to,” he said.

WCVB has been a member of the Pennsylvania Association of Travel and Tourism for “quite a long time,” Fulton said, adding, “We have concerns when the county looks at other organizations to be designated as a tourism promotion agency.”

Fulton had previously worked with former WCVB Executive Director Mike Olewine and said the commissioners’ resolution to change the county’s TPA is unique in how far the process has gone.

“It’s something that has been suggested before in other counties, sometimes there may be a differing of opinion or view on who the designated tourism promotion agency should be. So it’s been talked about before, but as long as I’ve been involved, I’ve been involved since 2007 in tourism, this is the first time it’s come to the point of a county having a resolution that they’re trying to get support from out in the municipalities…nobody’s taken it this far.”

Fulton said there are no requirements for members to sit on the TPA board, but usually consists of individuals from businesses in the community that have tourism or a travel background.

“Usually they would elect their board of directors that way,” he said.

The bylaws of a TPA could designate individuals from hospitality, or campgrounds, for example, “but generally it’s the decision of the board, who’s the best to serve, what’s the best representation,” Fulton said.

“It’s up to them if they want to decide how to break it out,” he said. “Normally, you are just looking for the individuals that are best suited.”

Most TPAs are classified as 501-c6, more of a business not for profit than a charitable organization that would be classified as a 501-c3.

“What the law says is the county has to pick one designated promotion agency to receive that hotel tax. There have been some examples in other counties where a smaller group may say ‘We don’t feel like this section of the county is being represented’ so they start their own. But they are not going to get hotel tax dollars,” he said. “We try to discourage that because we want people to work together…it’s in everybody’s best interest to work together, so whether it’s chamber or a conventional visitors bureau or some other entity, that’s what we’re trying to promote.”