Time to assess tourism priorities

October 19, 2010 11:04:00 AM



It appears cooler heads did prevail. 


A rift over funds provided by the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau to the Columbus-Lowndes Development Link appears on its way to healing. The CVB voted Monday to give $178,500 to the Link, which manages industrial recruitment and serves as the city''s chamber of commerce. That''s a $18,500 cut from what the Link was expecting. 


But, it could have been worse. The CVB, strapped for resources amid a variety of projects including a new headquarters building and the Tennessee Williams Home renovation, had planned to give $160,000 to the Link. 


The cut sparked outrage from the Link camp, with Link CEO Joe Higgins threatening to launch a kamikaze attack on the 2-percent food and beverage tax that funds the CVB (and, this year, 13 percent of the Link). 


According to one CVB board member, there is a long-standing agreement that the CVB would give 15 percent of its revenue to the Link, but there is nothing in writing.  


A summit meeting was held before the budget hearing with Link and CVB representatives, and we are pleased a compromise was reached. 


And we''re delighted by the programs and initiatives the CVB has undertaken. We''ve heard nothing but praise for the just past Sam Hairston celebration, which concluded with a groundbreaking concert at Riverside Park Saturday evening. And the double-decker bus and newly restored Tennessee Williams Welcome Center are well-conceived enhancements that will enrich our community for many years to come. 


We do think, however, this is a good time for the CVB to re-examine the role it plays in the community. While visitors are paying the 2-percent tax, we believe that the vast majority of eating out that happens in this town is done by those who live here. We''re the ones paying the tax, and we have a right to have a say in how it''s spent. 


While we find little to take issue with in the CVB''s programs, we believe it would be a wise move for the organization to conduct an assessment, a survey perhaps, of the community. How do we all want this money allocated? The CVB board may find that its own priorities aren''t in line with what many of us want for a better community. 


We challenge the CVB, once its budget is finalized, to take the pulse of the community and use the results to set its own priorities. Such a survey would be money well spent.