Albany leaders to vote on future of visitors bureau Monday

Albany leaders to vote on future of visitors bureau Monday
A vote on a CVB split is expected Monday (Source: WALB)

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - The Albany City Commission is just days away from voting on how tax dollars will be spent promoting tourism in the area.

WALB reported previously that enough city commissioners have spoken in favor of splitting Albany's Convention and Visitors Bureau from the Chamber of Commerce to vote it into reality.

On Friday, Mayor Dorothy Hubbard said she personally wasn't sure if the votes are there or not.

"Whichever way I vote, It will be to make sure that we try to do what is best for Albany," explained Albany. "I have Albany's best interest at heart."

That decision will be on how the Albany Convention and Visitors Bureau operates.

A recent University of Georgia study has suggested the CVB may benefit from becoming a stand-alone entity, opposed to how it currently operates as a department of the chamber of commerce.

But Albany Chamber CEO Barbara Rivera Holmes said the bureau is successful and she hasn't heard a legitimate business concern about it yet.

"We know that we have a productive relationship between the Albany Area Chamber and the Albany Convention and Visitors Bureau," said Rivera Holmes.

Despite her argument and a similar sentiment expressed in the Carl Vinson Center study, some believe the CVB's budget of $725,000 would be spent more wisely if it stood alone.

Hubbard said she's heard passionate arguments on both sides of the issue.

"The other person said, 'Well, yes it's gone well, but can it be better? Can we improve?' Which we always want to improve," explained Hubbard. "Then, sometimes, we need to stay the same. So, I am still talking to people."

For now, a CVB staff of four full-time employees and a handful of part-time workers are putting their heads together to bring visitors to area attractions.

Some respondents in a Carl Vinson Study survey have said they believe the CVB could be more focused on tourism-related activities rather than the general business interests of the chamber if it split.

And that that's what the bureau funded by tax dollars is meant to do.

"That is also through state law," said Hubbard. "That we can charge those taxes and that those funds can come back, but all those funds have to be used for some form of tourism according to state law."

While its only a small part of the CVB budget, chamber timesheets show administrative fees paid for by CVB bed tax dollars relate to activities that some may question as tourism related.

Rivera Holmes said things like the Star Business highlight how the chamber does help promote tourism in the area. Despite some companies being from industries visitors might not interact with, like tool and equipment rentals, hydraulic repairs and agricultural chemicals.

With all the information and swirling debate, city commissioners have their work cut out for them next Monday.

Chamber leaders said a series of CVB events have generated millions of dollars of economic impact to the area, including Albany State homecoming week, which brought in around $4 million.

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