To the Editor:
With reference to Quintin Ellison’s and Becky Johnson’s excellent reporting on the tourism marketing program for Jackson County, it was disturbing to read about the conflict between Cashiers and the Jackson County Travel and Tourism associations.
In a time of bad economy and severe marketing competition, it seems that unity within the county would be of paramount importance. In today’s advertising world the amount used by Cashiers and Jackson County is small. I doubt with limited funds their independent marketing efforts can be very productive. From what publications Cashiers reportedly advertises in those publications are certainly not geared to the affluent audience to which Cashiers claims it attempts to reach.
And if they consider other portions of Jackson County as competition, why worry since Cashiers is uniquely “affluent,” and that apparently disqualifies the remainder of the county as a destination threat.
The more I read the article, the more inept the Cashiers TDA director sounded. It is hard to conceive that inquiries go only to Chamber members. The two (Chamber and CTTA) are NOT to be interconnected. To force private entities to join the Chamber to obtain leads generated by PUBLIC funds seems to be illegal. What happens if a resort that collects the bed tax isn’t a chamber member? Are they ineligible to receive the inquiries?
What is needed is a complete tourism marketing review of the county. That includes all creative, publications/media plus costs and number of inquiries generated by each. The latter is basic marketing and if someone balks at providing the information the assumption should be those ads and/or publications did not deliver.
What marketing efforts do county businesses contribute to the overall tourism promotion program? I venture to say that virtually all county businesses whose dependence on tourism rely heavily, if not totally, on the “bed tax” and therefore the TTAs to bring business to the county.
Tourism marketing is a cooperative venture … private businesses and public agencies working together. While the “bed tax” has proven to be the main venue for funding tourism promotion, most of the bed tax legislation fails to see the value of regional/area marketing. This is to the detriment of most smaller destinations where regional (not just county) marketing programs would provide more “bang for the buck.”
In Cherokee, every business had an investment in tourism marketing. They paid one-half percent of monthly gross revenue into the marketing program. It was not a “pass on” tax like the “bed tax” which is collected from the tourist.
The advertising committee was comprised of two members from each business category. The committee was charged with approving the annual marketing program. A win-win arrangement since every business on the Qualla Boundary realized monies from visitors.
This is NOT the time for an uncooperative attitude between tourism agencies in Jackson County! The $440,000 generated is considered a small tourism marketing budget today, and anything under $100,000 can’t make much of an impact when competing with hundreds of destinations going for the same potential visitor.
The county commission should require a complete recap of marketing efforts and results from each agency sharing in the bed tax revenues. Accountability is needed! There must be a reason bed tax revenues are down in Jackson County, and I doubt the absence of the train is the only reason.
Could it be the tourism marketing program is not as effective as it should/could be due to what appears to be protectionism on at least one party’s part?
David Redman lives in Sylva and has spent 47 years in the tourism marketing industry. Previously he was with Marineland of Florida, Florida Attractions Association, Travel Industry Association of America, manager of international tourism trade shows, Cherokee Tribal Travel and Promotion Office and other affiliations. He also assisted in the writing of the original accommodation tax legislation for the State of Florida in the 1970s.