Saugatuck-Douglas CVB Proposes Raising Room Assessment Rates To Help Increase Area Marketing Efforts
On October 21, 2015 The Saugatuck-Douglas Convention & Visitors Bureau held a meeting with it’s lodging members to discuss the possibility of increasing the current 2% room assessment to 5%.
These funds are used to market the area as a tourism destination.
A 3% assessment increase is expected to generate $429,000 in additional advertising funds for the Visitors Bureau to promote the area.
In 2011 the Michigan House and Senate passed legislation enabling Conventon & Visitors Bureaus organized under Public Act 59 to raise their room assessments from 2% to 5% to help them increase funding to market their communities. Only four Visitors Bureaus in the State of Michigan have not yet initiated an assessment increase. Saugatuck-Douglas is one of the four who have not.
According to Felicia Fairchild, executive director of the Saugatuck-Douglas Convention & Visitors Bureau, “We are strong competitors when it comes to marketing our destination and we have held our own in the tourism market for years through creative marketing, ingenuity and public relations skills.”
She added, “However, it is becoming increasingly difficult to compete effectively with the huge budgets of all of our surrounding competitors.”
The October 21st lodging meeting marked the culmination of the development of the Visitors Bureau’s Five-Year Strategic Tourism Marketing plan.
This plan took eight months to prepare and was developed in cooperation with the entire community including area businesses and residents.
To illustrate to its members how the CVB Board of Directors would spend the increased assessment monies, the bureau hired an ad agency to prepare a comprehensive advertising & digital marketing presentation, media plan and budget for lodging members to consider.
The presentation received high praise from the lodging members present.
Jane Verplank, owner of Saugatuck’s Victorian Inn said, “This advertising campaign is the most refreshing and the best thing I have seen presented in this community in the 36 years that I have lived here and operated three successful businesses.”
The CVB Board of Directors presented a proposed budget for the $429,000 recommending that all the increased assessment monies collected be spent on advertising and promotion only.
The board did not recommend increasing any salaries, wages or operating expenses for the bureau from new assessment increases.
The board is forming an advisory committee of lodging members to review the proposed budget and make further recommendations to the board before board members take the final version to the membership for a vote.
Prior to initiating an official state referendum, the Visitors Bureau will conduct a “Straw” vote of all lodging members to determine if there is enough support to go forward.
If there is not enough support to carry the referendum vote the bureau will not pursue an effort to increase the assessment.
According to Kathy Wilson, chair of the CVB Board of Directors, “We are optimistic that our members will see the value in this proposal and do what is in the best interests of the economic future of the entire community and put personal interests aside.”
Following the presentation, the bureau announced that during its October 13th board meeting the directors decided to sell the bureau’s former office building at 2902 Blue Star Highway and that they were hoping to find a real-estate Broker who would work with them as a community service.
They explained that the plan has been to wait until the economy rebounded to sell the old building so that they could use the equity from the old building to pay off the mortgage on the new Welcome Center. They also announced that they had purchased a billboard located north of Exit 30 on Interstate 196 from Carl Jennings and Larry Gammons from their existing operations budget.
For more information about CVB plans on raising room assessments, or to arrange seeing the advertising presentation, please contact Felicia Fairchild at (269) 857-5985.