Letter to the Editor:
While I currently serve as chairperson of the Jackson County Tourism Development Authority, I wish to make clear that I am speaking as a private citizen and my comments may not reflect the collective opinion of the TDA.
First, I wish to thank news organizations for their coverage of the formation and deliberations of this TDA. Having served six years with Jackson County Travel and Tourism Authority, I can say that this is the most attention the media has paid to the tourism efforts of Jackson County that I have seen in many years.
The statement made in a recent Sylva Herald editorial, “… a robust tourism industry is critical to everyone in Jackson County …to a great extent, we rely on visitation dollars,” is quite accurate. And no one knows that better than those the county has selected to direct the development of that segment of the economy just how critical it is. As the writer indicated, the impacts of tourism on the Jackson County economy are far-reaching. But it does all start with getting those “heads in beds.” That is the catalyst for all of the benefits that the paper listed in the editorial.
You see, each one of those who sit on the Tourism Development Authority was selected because of their connection and understanding of the industry based on ownership or management. They have a vested interest in the success of efforts being put forth. Unlike some, their income is tied to the dollars the TDA invests in enhancing and promoting the Jackson County tourism brand, accommodations, amenities and attractions.
And what they are doing is working. So much so, in fact, that in the first six months of the fiscal year, occupancy tax collections increased by 8.2 percent. That number is adjusted so that the 1 percent occupancy tax increase does not inflate the percentage (so actual collected revenue is even higher than the 8.2). Using the vernacular of the editor, I would say that the Board not only “burned rubber,” but left the previous revenue figures in the dust. Growth in that collection is one of the metrics of success that lets the board and the public know that efforts (and dollars invested) are bearing fruit.
Again, to use the analogy of the writer, youngsters often make fun of what they don’t understand. We, as citizens, need to be reminded occasionally that an opinion page is just that — opinion. Even if it is brought forward by those who normally bring us the “news” and even if it is peppered with facts, a person (journalists included) is not required to be accurate or correct when giving their opinion in print.
Insinuating that the TDA paid for two words shows a gross misunderstanding of what it takes to produce a slogan or brand concept, brand creative and the associated research, which is also a product of the effort. And to declare that the TDA is spending money frivolously is an insult to each of those who are putting heart and soul into efforts to improve Jackson County’s tourism product, image and help the overall economy of Jackson County grow. The TDA’s actions are not frivolous, they are deliberate and they are not only working; they are showing increase.
I invite you, as citizens and media, to attend our monthly meeting and see first-hand what is going on in the TDA. I can do that as a citizen; those meetings are public and open to everyone. Again, as the opinion writer stated, tourism is important to Jackson County. We should all be working to enhance it and not tear down those who are volunteering to lead it.