City leaders vote on future of the Albany Convention and Visitors Bureau

City leaders vote on future of the Albany Convention and Visitors Bureau

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - After years of debate, Albany city leaders made a decision that will impact the future of the Albany tourism industry.

Commissioners voted to split the Albany Convention and Visitors Bureau from the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce at a meeting Monday night.

Officials at the meeting said the city commission approved the proposal in a 6-1 vote.

Albany city commissioners voted in favor of terminating the CVB's contract with the Chamber and create one directly with the city of Albany.

"Why is this number one on your list in January 2018," said one after the other. "Why take on something that is running good when there are so many other things to look at?"

"The Hampton Inn in Albany charges $159 per night. The ones outside of Atlanta suburbs don't even get that. What are we doing right here," said another business leader.

Albany residents and business leaders voiced their concerns about why they're not in favor of the Convention and Visitors Bureau splitting from the Chamber of Commerce.

The idea was proposed after a study by the University of Georgia's Carl Vinson Institute of Government that was released in September of 2017.

The study suggested 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 CVB.

Chamber CEO Barbara Rivera Holmes disagreed with the need to split the two organizations, saying the relationship between the two has been productive.

The existing relationship of an Albany Area Chamber-led -- a business led -- Convention and Visitor's Bureau has facilitated growth in Albany's tourism industry. The existing relationship is good for the city of Albany, its citizens and its businesses. - Rivera Holmes

"We've done incredible work. It's a complex process and it certainly requires a lot of thought and deliberation," Holmes added.

All commissioners except for one voted in favor of the change.

"We really don't know what we're getting into as far as cost," said Commissioner Bob Langstaff.

Langstaff said he was concerned about how it will impact current employees' 401(k) and healthcare benefits and he believed the decision was happening too fast.

But Commissioner BJ Fletcher, a big supporter of a stand-alone CVB, said no one would lose their job or benefits.

She also said it's been discussed for several years and needed to happen.

"Just because something is not broke doesn't mean we can't improve on it. We got infrastructure that's working but it needs repairing," added Commissioner Fletcher.

The contract between the Chamber and the CVB officially ends June 30th.

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