Western Report: Year-round business would end grumblings about Visitors Bureau

Recently, there has been some grumbling from members of the tourism community in Jo Daviess County—again. Some of the grumblings formerly have been sent to the Jo Daviess County Board, and they include questions about the effectiveness of the Jo Daviess Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB).

The Jo Daviess County CVB is one of just a very few of the state’s Convention and Visitors Bureaus under the direct control of the county board of the county it represents. And therein, critics say, lies the problem.

Of the 16 County Board members and the chairman, hardly any of them have experience in the tourism industry. One board member owns a Galena restaurant, pretty much making him the expert in tourism on the board, and he recently asked for a survey to critique the efforts of the CVB. After some discussion, the board decided to not use the survey, giving the CVB a vote of confidence. According to most County Board members, the CVB is doing a pretty good job.

Well, if you are looking at their performance through the eyes of most of those board members, I guess it would look like they were doing a good job. After all, the CVB gets a 5 percent tax on every overnight room sold by every hotel, motel and inn in the county, and the county gets 10 percent of that to use any way they want. The CVB, after paying the generous salaries to its executive director, event coordinator, marketing director, sales director, office manager, visitors services manager and administrative assistant—plus a few helpers at the info center—have to use what’s left over to promote tourism so all of those salaries can be paid again. Not much of the $1.1 million collected by the CVB really gets back to the taxpayers to help with infrastructure repairs and improvements needed from all those tourists or tax relief for County residents.

All must agree, though, that tourism still benefits the County in other ways—such as jobs provided and sales tax revenues. But if the County Board had any real tourism experience or understanding, its members would understand that what the current CVB is doing is far below what is needed.

Jo Daviess County needs their CVB to aggressively get into the market areas where our visitors come from and make the personal calls and meetings with corporate clients to get steady weekday business throughout the year. Weekends will fill up; we need rooms filled Sunday-Thursday on a regular basis. Then, the grumblings will stop.

John Huschik is a free-lance writer from Galena and covers the Jo Daviess County political scene.

From the July 12-18, 2006, issue

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