By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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Council members voted 4-3, with Mayor Dan Di Guilio and members Sissi Bruch and Lee Whetham opposed, to allow the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce to spend $196,150 in city lodging tax funds on marketing promotions.
“We couldn't do anything officially until this vote was taken,” chamber Executive Director Russ Veenema said Wednesday.
“As of [Wednesday], everyone is getting green lights to proceed.”
The amount had been sequestered from the chamber, with whom the city contracts to handle its lodging tax revenue, until a detailed plan on where the money would be spent was developed.
The sequester came amid larger council discussions in November and December on how best to fund tourism and economic development efforts for the city.
The money is given with the requirement that its impact will be measured using several measurements, such as Port Angeles Visitor Center statistics, chamber website visitation and occupancy rates from local hotels and motels, said Nathan West, city community and economic development director.
Di Guilio said he could not support releasing the funds until goals, such as a 5 percent or 10 percent increase in chamber visitor center traffic, were attached to the funding rather than simply planning to measure the information.
“I don't see any [mention] of that here,” he said.
“Before I can support this, I'd like to see something like that here.”
Bruch said she was skeptical of spending so much on marketing alone, adding that she would rather see it spent on tangible capital projects and enhancing tourism events, such as the Dungeness Crab & Seafood Festival.
“To me, it's like build it, and they will come,” Bruch said.
“That's where I'd like to see that money get spent.”
The $196,150 is part of a total chamber budget of $340,000, paid for through lodging tax revenue collected on motel and hotels in the city.
The marketing expenditures, recommend by the city's Lodging Tax Advisory Committee in January, will pay for Internet marketing and advertising targeting the I-5 corridor in print, television and on the Washington State Ferries, according to a council memo.
The money also will contribute to the marketing efforts of the Olympic Peninsula Tourism Commission and pay for regional advertising on Vancouver Island.
Di Guilio said he would rather focus on one or two different types of media rather than “shotgunning” several different kinds.
Veenema said the various kinds of media are targeting the homes of some 80 percent to 90 percent of Port Angeles visitors.
“We are definitely not doing a shotgun approach,” Veenema said.
Veenema said Wednesday that he plans to work with members of the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee, chaired by Councilwoman Cherie Kidd, in the coming months to develop the sorts of goals Di Guilio wanted.
Committee members also will review the measurements and refine them if needed at their April meeting, Veenema added.
In response to Bruch's concerns, Veenema said at Tuesday's meeting that he thinks a blend between money spent on tangible improvements and marketing is best.
“You also just can't keep all the money here and not tell people you're creating a product,” Veenema said.
Having an effect
Councilman Patrick Downie said the chamber's marketing efforts have had an effect, citing the $501,472 in lodging tax revenue — a record high and an 8 percent increase over 2012 — collected in 2013.
“I believe the marketing efforts we have seen have had some effect,” Downie said.
“I would be fearful to think if we hadn't marketed how many wouldn't have come.”
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.