Chris DeSimone was good enough to copy us on this email he sent to the OV Council Members. We thought it worthy of sharing with our readers----especially since Mayor Loomis (the "lame duck") is lobbying to restore funds to MTVCB (and TREO) that the council recently voted unanimously to discontinue because of budget constraints.
While you grapple with the question of funding this organization, please take a minute to read this column that Joe and I wrote for this week's Inside Tucson Business. Tourism promotion is very important to our town, but the days of writing checks to outside organizations without 3rd party accountability is probably not the best use of taxpayer dollars. With some sort of accountability system in place, you can cast your vote with confidence instead of confusion.
All the best,
Wake Up, Tucson! Radio Show
Oro Valley Resident
Making the golden egg shine: Maximizing the tourism dollar
WAKE UP, TUCSON: A plan for measurable results
By Joe Higgins and Chris DeSimone, Inside Tucson Business
Published on Friday, April 23rd, 2010
With the decline of the construction industry in Pima County, tourism is again the economic engine that makes our world go. Tourism is an industry most people in the region can appreciate and respect. Environmental open space goals and policies that restrict growth fit perfectly into the tourism industry. Tourism brings in visitors with wallets full of new cash.
Southern Arizona isn’t a manufacturing mecca. We don’t have high-tech, clean industries so tourism is one of the few industries that helps fill governments’ tax coffers.
The organization charged with maximizing tourism’s economic impact is the Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau (MTCVB). The agency is funded by formulas coming from hotel bed taxes that are paid by tourists to government entities: the City of Tucson, Pima County and, to a lesser degree, Oro Valley and Marana. The more tourists, the more bed taxes, and the more bed taxes, the more the MTCVB can promote.
The $9 million dollar question is, how is the Tucson region doing compared to its peers?
We go back to the question we posed two weeks ago: How would someone from a cold-weather city compare Scottsdale, Sante Fe or Tucson? It’s all perception. Did they watch the Accenture Match Play Championship? Did a neighbor tell them about some terrific place for Mexican food? Did they read an article? Did they see an advertisement on a cold day deep in winter that showed people having fun in the sun in Tucson?
When we talk to local elected officials about the effectiveness of the MTCVB, we see a lot of blank stares. It’s not their fault, they are not tourism experts. At the same time, these elected officials are the stewards of millions of dollars, going to the MTCVB.
Do the elected officials know the questions to ask? Do they understand the role of destination marketing versus lead generation? Is the MTCVB lean and mean and doing a bang-up job? Are there measurable results that show tax dollars delivering results? How does Tucson rate against other communities?
Is anyone even asking these questions?
The MTCVB should be put on a contract of two to three years, maximum, during which time a third party is hired to gather information and develop comparison and measurement data. A good start would be to develop a ratio based on current bed tax collections and the amount of money spent in tourism promotion, along with the resulting changes, either up or down, from bed taxes.
Nothing works in a vacuum so it’s important to see how Tucson stacks up against other southwestern destinations. How much does Scottsdale collect in bed taxes? How much is spent on actual marketing, versus overhead or other tactics. What’s the trend in bed tax collections?
What we suspect will be found is that destinations that market their unique attributes in key markets see increases.
Seems pretty basic, but how much of it is benefitting the Tucson region?
The process will take time, but it’s an investment in one of Tucson’s only economic bright spots. If the MTCVB trends favorably in that two-to-three-year time frame, then a renewal would be in order. Maybe even with cash bonuses for the staff. If the trend is negative, then governments should considering issuing an RFP for tourism promotion.
The MTCVB’s board is made of business people who are all under some form of an accountability system. It should be no different for their organization.
We understand and appreciate the hard work of the frontline people at the MTCVB. And, for as important as tourism is to this region, we all need to be assured their work is getting the maximum out of taxpayers’ dollars.
The family in Minneapolis or Toledo planning a vacation needs to have top-of-mind awareness of Tucson.
And Tucson’s No. 1 industry needs to be producing all that it can.