Albany leaders consider splitting tourism group from chamber

Albany leaders consider splitting tourism group from chamber
Commissioners Howard and Coleman are in favor of following study recommendation. (Source: WALB)
Commissioner Fletcher is in favor of an independent CVB. (Source: WALB)
Commissioner Fletcher is in favor of an independent CVB. (Source: WALB)
Commissioner Marietta and Langstaff. (Source: WALB)
Commissioner Marietta and Langstaff. (Source: WALB)
Commissioner Postell. (Source: WALB)
Commissioner Postell. (Source: WALB)
Chamber CEO Barbara Rivera Holmes. (Source: WALB)
Chamber CEO Barbara Rivera Holmes. (Source: WALB)

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - It appears a majority of the city commission is in favor of making the Albany Convention and Visitors Bureau a stand-alone operation.

City commissioners heard for the first time on Tuesday from a lead researcher about a study recommending an independent CVB, apart from the Chamber of Commerce.

Now, several leaders said they are ready to start moving forward with changes.

"I am just going to lay it out here. I want to vote on it. And, as far as my stance, I am going to go with the way it was recommended. I believe that the CVB should stand on its own, the chamber should stand on its own," said Ward III Commissioner BJ Fletcher.

Stand on its own, that was the common theme among several city commissioners following a presentation from Ted Baggett, the associate director with the University of Georgia's Carl Vinson Institute of Government.

Its study ultimately recommends separating the CVB from the chamber.

"In fact, it will probably have a positive effect, because studies have shown that independent CVB's are more effective in bringing tourism in and that will benefit the chamber and be good for economic development for the whole city. I don't see a downside to it," said Ward IV Commissioner Roger Marietta.

Ward II Commissioner Bobby Coleman said he is ready to vote for an independent CVB.

Commissioner Tommie Postell wants more time to research the issue.

Commissioner Bob Langstaff did not comment on Tuesday in response to an email request.

Ward I Commissioner Jon Howard is in favor of following the study's recommendations.

"I think it is a good idea, but at the same time, I do have some concerns," said Howard.

Howard's concern is keeping the number of elected officials on any future CVB governance board to a minimum, as recommended in the study.

Mayor Dorothy Hubbard said she only wants what is best for the city.

"Nobody is saying that the chamber has done anything. (Ted Baggett with Carl Vinson) said that our CVB is moving forward. But, the question has always become how can we improve? How can we make it better? That is what we are all about," said Hubbard.

Commissioner Fletcher is pushing for a vote quickly, as she would like outgoing Commissioner Coleman to vote on the issue she said he has studied extensively.

However, the item isn't expected to be on the agenda again until the new year, on January 8.

The President and CEO of Albany's Chamber of Commerce Barbara Rivera Holmes said the current CVB model works.

Holmes explained that the CVB has enjoyed success and growth as a division of the chamber. She said she has not heard complaints about the CVB, and noted that tourism dollars into Albany continue to increase year after year.

Holmes said Albany isn't the only successful chamber and CVB model in the state.

"I don't think that requires a change in the governance structure. It was said today that the governance structure works and in fact, one of the state's most successful convention and visitors bureau is the Chamber-CVB model that is utilized in Savannah," said Holmes.

Holmes said there are more components involved in having a successful Convention and Visitors Bureau than simply the governance structure.

Copyright 2017 WALB. All rights reserved.

Keep up with WALB on the go! 
Follow us on social  
   and download our apps!