Brookings City Manager Gary Milliman will pursue an agreement with the Port of Brookings-Harbor to form a committee promoting tourism in the area.
That idea and others was considered by the City Council after the city opted to bow out of its tourism-promotion agreement with the Brookings-Harbor Chamber of Commerce earlier this month.
That contract ends July 31 because the chamber wanted to continue its five-year agreements as it has for the past 20 years but the City Council preferred a one-year contract.
Chamber CEO Les Cohen said the chamber gets a “bigger bang for its buck” when it can tell potential advertisers they have long-term financing.
Milliman has met with Port of Brookings Harbor District Manager Ted Fitzgerald several times this month to discuss having the port marketing and promotions staff develop a joint tourism promotion program.
A draft agreement, he said, is “based heavily on the Chamber of Commerce agreement. Pretty much only the names have been changed.”
The port has two part-time promotions and events employees who could conduct the promotions program and organize events. And the port would be willing to increase the hours of those employees – at port expense – to do so, Milliman said.
The two agencies also talked about developing a joint marketing plan that would address a shared tourism website. The port office could also serve as a visitor information center, with hours of operations adjusted to include weekends.
Issues that will have to be hashed out include how to intermingle port and city advertising dollars, job descriptions and who should sit on the seven-member committee.
Milliman suggested including hotel, restaurant and retailers and representatives of the city and port.
Brookings resident Candace Michel told the council that a tourist can easily be turned into a regular visitor and later, a resident and active citizen, helping the city grow.
City Council members also expressed wariness about Harbor businesses that might benefit from city-port promotions – but don’t contribute to the cause.
The port district, it was noted, extends from Pistol River to the California border, and includes both the city of Brookings and unincorporated Harbor. The port property, too, is conducive for holding large events.
Other ideas the city considered included partnering with the Tri-Agency Economic Development Commission in Del Norte County to develop a regional tourism promotion program.
Milliman also suggested soliciting a private or non-profit entity to develop and manage a city tourism program, citing the success Gold Beach had when it received seven bids to promote that end of the county recently
Three of the seven were submitted by local consultants and ranged in cost from $33,000 to $75,000. The city of Brookings collects about $35,000 a year for tourism promotion from its “bed taxes.”
The bed tax in town is 6 percent, and 25 percent of money generated from that is designated for promoting tourism.
Another idea Milliman had was to forego a tourism promotion program altogether and open a visitor information center operated by volunteers or a local nonprofit organization, instead.
City staff also contacted officials in Pendleton to discuss their program, “Travel Pendleton.” That city levies a $1.50 nightly fee for each rented motel room and RV space. Money generated from that is divided equally – about $100,000 each – to fund the conference center and “Travel Pendleton.”
Brookings, Milliman noted, has been receiving two to three inquiries a week from travel magazine publishers and websites seeking advertisers. Another party expressed an interest in making a three-minute YouTube video promoting tourism or retirement.
The city could also opt to establish a grant program whereby event holders obtain money from the town to sponsor activities.
“We need to expand our vision about what attracts people and why they want to stay,” Michel said.