Study: Albany Visitors Bureau, Chamber of Commerce split could be beneficial

Study: Albany Visitors Bureau, Chamber of Commerce split could be beneficial
The study was released in September (Source: WALB)
The study was requested by the city (Source: WALB)
The study was requested by the city (Source: WALB)

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - A University of Georgia study, requested by the city of Albany, may prompt a change in how the Albany area is marketed to tourists.

The study states that splitting Albany's tourism marketer from the Chamber of Commerce may be beneficial.

Those findings echo a similar 2015 report.

A suggested split

As guests bunk up in Albany hotels, tax dollars from their stay are given to the area's tourism marketer, the Albany Convention and Visitors Bureau, to convince others to keep traveling to the Good Life City.

"We have a governance model that's been in place for some time and has proved fruitful and return on investment in those tourism dollars," Chamber CEO Barbara Rivera Holmes said.

As a division of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, a new UGA study, released by the Carl Vinson Institute, agrees.

The CVB has been successful, but a split from the Chamber could make it more nimble and focused on attracting tourists.

"We've just gotten it and we really want to look over it and be fair to both sides," said City Commissioner BJ Fletcher.

Fletcher added that she believes the idea for the city to request the study may have come up during its annual retreat.

"Be patient, you know," Fletcher said. "Don't get out here and pound that we're doing anything because right now, it's so new to us we don't know what we're doing."

The findings state that most of the visitors' bureaus operated in similarly sized cities are moving toward independent non-profit models, as opposed to chamber or government control.

But Rivera Holmes said she thinks the current model is working well.

"We know that we have a productive relationship between the Albany Area Chamber and the Albany Convention and Visitors Bureau, both from a staffing component, from a leadership component and from seeing that return," Holmes explained.

Still, the study suggests city leaders take a hard look at the model to avoid a number of issues like non-CVB staff members receiving CVB funds or a difference of interests between the chamber and the visitors bureau.

"Ultimately, it boils down, the decision of the city commission is going to be what's best for the taxpayer of this community," Fletcher said.

Moving forward

It's a discussion that leaders said they will be having soon.

Fletcher said the city commission plans on talking about the study during its December 12 meeting.

Albany city administrators declined our request for an interview on the topic, until a later time when the Albany downtown manager would be available.

Below is a copy of the study from the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia:

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