Tourism issues new and old
Pressured by local businesses, the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association is putting a new emphasis on the resort part of its name.The chamber is working to better promote tourism in town, following concerns raised by the Hot Springs Lodge & Pool, Sunlight Mountain Resort, Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park and some area lodges.The issues at hand are in some ways quite new, and in other ways an old refrain, for the chamber, which contracts with the city to administer a tourism promotion fund of about a half-million dollars a year. One focus for the chamber has been on rethinking its Central Reservations system, at a time when the Internet has largely eliminated the need for such systems to book lodging.City Council Member Chris McGovern questioned the systems value in these changing times, and the chamber ended a contract with a Canadian company to handle reservations and is working with Springs Travel in Glenwood to handle the function to the degree it continues to exist. The change will save the chamber about $30,000 per year.Some tourism industry representatives would like to see improvement on the chambers Web site and in its tourism publications. Meanwhile, the chamber faces a lingering issue: Is the organization spending lodging tax money on chamber expenses other than tourism promotion?Thats a tricky question to answer. The chamber cant be expected to spend every last tax dollar on advertising and other direct forms of tourism promotion. Someone has to be paid to oversee all that, and computers, office space and other support costs must be covered as well. The difficulty has been for the chamber to show as clearly as possible that these nondirect expenses are justified. The city attempts to address the question by limiting nondirect, support costs to 40 percent of the total tourism promotion budget.As the chamber seeks to bring more transparency to its handling of the fund, it is motivated at least partly by the knowledge that some other party could always compete with the chamber for the city contract. Even the tourism industry representatives concerned about the chambers current performance havent ruled out making such a bid.However, the chamber may have gone far to defuse the situation by elevating its tourism committee to a more autonomous tourism marketing board with full control over the city fund. It also has created subcommittees of businesses that will focus on its Web site and publications.All of this comes at a bit of a tough time for the chamber. Its tourism marketing director, Lori Hogan, recently resigned to open her own business. Others in the chamber have been scrambling to assess where this years advertising and promotion campaign stands, and move it forward as the city enters its busiest tourism season.Still, the chamber can take comfort in knowing that, even while Glenwood Springs suffered economically in 2004 as indicated by falling sales tax revenues, lodging tax proceeds grew by 3.8 percent.The chambers challenge is to keep that growth going while putting to rest doubts that it is best positioned to oversee the task of attracting more tourists to town.
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