Thursday, April 29, 2010

Editorial: New tourism plan makes good sense

"Tourism or bust." Ack.

At several points in today's editorial the unnamed Courier editor admits explicitly that the City staff's plan to bring tourism promotion in-house is short-term thinking. He's following up on yesterday's story by Cindy in which Council applauds shearing off years of ties to PACT, rejigging the City bureaucracy and reallocating funds to pump up tourism.

Tourism is all very nice for kitschy downtown trinket-sellers, hoteliers and restaurants, but I have a hard time imagining that anyone thinks of it as a reliable foundation for economic activity in general, good jobs or municipal revenues. Communities that rely on tourism wind up out in the cold when the fashion changes or fuel costs rise, leaving their already overstretched minimum-wage workforces bankrupt, jobless and further reliant on public services for which funds have dried up. Tourism should be the frosting on economic planning, not the cake, and it's extremely disheartening to see our Council and staff so bereft of ideas that this is being hailed as some sort of great leap forward.

Does no one notice that the plan includes dropping the office of economic development director? This was the person charged with marketing the city's advantages to large companies and manufacturers. Does that effort go away while we goof around with tourists? The Courier apparently didn't ask the question.

I'm not convinced it was a great idea in the first place to privatize the bed-tax revenues by employing PACT, which farmed the whole thing out to an ad agency. But I'm also not convinced that City staff has anything like the marketing savvy to employ those funds effectively. Right off the bat they're talking about building events and a marketing plan from the ground up, and I have to wonder what we've been spending money on all these years that apparently leaves nothing useful in terms of planning from the previous regime. I also recall how eager certain City department heads have been to expand their personal empires. Finally it seems to me that with these new salaries City staff are recommending an overall increase in expenditures for tourism promotion, and I have to wonder what PACT could have done with those additional funds. It reads like an apples/oranges comparison designed to favor salaries to City staff.

In the new director's position the City is proposing to spend 10% of bed tax revenues on one person -- not on ad buys, not on communications or infrastructure, on the person in the chair. How can they possibly justify that expense in terms of benefits to our residents? The editor isn't bothering to ask. But I imagine it's occurred to more than a few business owners and managers who rarely see benefits from tourists on the square.

1 comment:

The Fitz said...

Bullseye again! The 'Courier' continues to appease it's actual and potential advertisers while
ignoring the general populace.

Do we really need more bed makers, toilet scrubbers and similar minimum wage jobs that are
only dragging down the potential workforce?

Let's instead reach out for some clean or green industry that will uplift the community and its residents.