Brookings, Port delay tourism promotion venture

By Jane Stebbins, Pilot staff writer July 20, 2012 10:39 pm

Port of Brookings Harbor commissioners tabled a vote to accept a contract from the City of Brookings to create a tourism promotion venture, saying they’d feel a little more comfortable if there was a game plan to go with it.

The board agreed there was nothing in the contract – minus, perhaps a little tweaking of proposed visitor center hours – they disliked. But they were unsure what exactly their role would be under the terms.

City officials gave the draft contract to the port as the two entities consider merging marketing efforts toward tourists. The city has for at least 20 years held the same contract with the Brookings-Harbor Chamber of Commerce, but decided not to enter into the agreement this fiscal year, which began July 1.

 

Chamber officials wanted a five-year contract to get a bigger bang for their buck with advertisers; the city wanted to change the terms to a one-year deal. The city collects a 6 percent “transient lodging” tax from people staying in local hotels and had, until July 1, contributed 25 percent of that money to the chamber to promote tourism. That revenue averaged $35,000 a year.

Port Manager Ted Fitzgerald, who had to leave Tuesday’s meeting to attend to a family emergency, said he was fine with the city’s proposed contract, which is, in effect, the same as the one penned between the city and chamber.

Although the city and chamber have parted ways, Fitzgerald said he wanted to continue working with the chamber in any way possible, particularly since they are essentially promoting the same amenities.

Fitzgerald proposed a new visitor’s center open at the port office on Lower Harbor Road.

“How that would work with the chamber visitor center 100 feet away makes no sense,” said commissioner Jim Relaford. “It doesn’t make sense to do that twice. I think the chamber needs to have some involvement in marketing. There may be ways the chamber can work with the port.”

Chamber CEO Les Cohen said neither the city or port have approached him yet about anything regarding tourism promotion and that, for his organization, it’s mostly business as usual.

“We are still promoting member businesses and the Brookings-Harbor community,” he said. “We are the agency people come to for visitor information and relocation information. We get requests every day for people who want to visit. And 90 percent of people who live here first came here as visitors.”

Under the terms of the proposed agreement with the city, the port would be responsible for implementing, staffing and supplying a tourism promotion program, which could include radio, television and magazine advertisements and mailings; and informing visitors about scenic and historic attractions, entertainment, restaurants and accommodations.

The port would also be required to match funds, either in cash or in-kind services, equal to the amount provided to it by the city.

Commissioner Ted Freeman wanted to see a business plan and cash flow details before signing his name to such a broad document.

“We’re venturing into something we don’t normally do,” he said. 

Activities the chamber no longer conducts for the city of Brookings include engaging with regional and national media, having an Internet presence with the Travel Oregon website, advertising with Oregon Coast Magazine – the most-used vacation guide in the state – Cohen said, or attending sportsman and travel shows.

Next month, the chamber will receive its new visitor brochures – 40,000 of them – for distribution throughout the coming year.

The $35,000 the city provided to the chamber was a mere drop in the bucket compared to other nearby towns, Cohen said. Gold Beach contributes at least three times the percentage of its bed tax to the Gold Beach Promotions Committee for an average of $300,000 a year. Del Norte’s tax revenue dedicated to tourism promotion totals about $168,000.

Cohen doesn’t know what the port and city plan to do.

“We’re talking $35,000,” he said, “and all this time and effort to recreate this wheel.”

The port board seemed excited about the possibilities.

“The city doesn’t have the ability to do this,” said commissioner Jim Relaford. “The port staff is already there, we can do events, tourism, any way we can. I have confidence he (Fitzgerald) knows what he’s doing.”