It seems that every week there is a news story somewhere in America about a state or local tourism office or CVB whose funding is cut, threatened or at least questioned. (Like this in Oklahoma, and this in Minnesota and this in West Virginia.) Readers of this blog know that I have strong opinions on the value of tourism as an engine of economic development. Add to the equation that Inprint specializes in tourism branding and marketing, working with a number of DMOs, and you might think that my default position on the subject each time I read one of those news stories is to denounce cuts as shortsighted and irresponsible. You'd be wrong.
In a for-profit business, a VP of Marketing or Chief Marketing Officer must show results or face the consequences. Likewise, a creative firm like ours needs to continually produce great work or be replaced by a new agency. CVBs should stand up to the same kind of scrutiny, especially since they usually operate with tax dollars. They need to market the destination effectively and make wise choices with the taxpayers' money. So, while I enthusiastically support what a CVB can do for a community, I also believe that they need to continually prove their worth. Excellence and accountability is my default position.
Sure, sometimes the battles over funding are due to politicians who just don't understand the ROI that tourism marketing can generate. They need to be educated on the economics of travel. But which is worse, not adequately funding tourism marketing in the first place or a CVB/office of tourism that doesn't give the community maximum impact for its tax dollars? The results are not the same. In both cases the result is reduced economic benefit for the community, but in the latter scenario some taxpayer money has needlessly gone down the drain.
When the system works properly — with sufficient funding and well-run CVBs — as it does a vast majority of the time, everyone wins. Local businesses thrive. Local tax collections increase. Visitors to the community receive better services.