By ABBEY KUNKLE
Special to the PRESS
January 22, 2015
Since the addition of new Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) Director Rachel Flores along with new Director of Sales Denise Arnold last June, the CVB has made significant strides. The Convention and Visitors Advisory Board (CVA) welcomed new members at a workshop last Thursday morning to discuss an overview of the functions of the CVA including structure and funding as well as plans for the future. They also held their regular monthly meeting Wednesday morning to dig deeper into the issues for this year.
Before jumping into their overview, City Council Member Julee LaMure addressed the board to share information about the current legislative bill concerning the Hotel/Motel Tax allocation to include funding for facilities, programs, and marketing related to SpaceX. This is important to the CVA because they control a portion of the tax fund as it relates to “putting heads in beds.” With a budget of $6.8 million, $1.8 million of which goes to the CVB for marketing and another $440,000 for events, the Hotel/Motel Tax is the largest source of revenue for the city. An amendment to the bill could broaden opportunities in how that money is spent. LaMure reassured the board that they share the goal of increasing tourism and said, “Ultimately, the CVA is the gatekeeper, so there is nothing that will come to the city until it goes through you.” Scott Joslove, of the Texas Hotel Lodging Association played a major role in the construction of the amendment, along with the help of Hillco Lobbyist Clint Smith and City Attorney Paul Cunningham.
CVB Director Rachel Flores came up next to give the new board an overview of the functions and structure of the CVB. Flores shared that the CVB is broken down into four sections totaling 17 employees: Convention Centre operations, sales, the Visitors Center and the administrative office. She said that one of the most important things that the board does is provide allocation of funding for events like Sandcastle Days, concert series, TIFT and more.
Annual revenue for the Convention Centre has been stagnant for the past few years at around $220,000, but with the new staff and direction from the board, the sales department has made changes and expects improvement in the future. Director Arnold will be providing the CVA with sales reports including reasons for lost sales so as to get input on ways to further improve.
Marketing was also a focus at the regular meeting with updates on the progress of the Website Subcommittee, who oversee the website sopadre.com as well as other digital advertising. The Website Subcommittee is currently focused on improving website content to increase traffic and use of the site and to attract a variety of people with specific information for all types of interests. The CVB has been using old photos for advertising but are looking to increase their selection with new, high quality photos that project an appropriate and attractive image. The board encouraged local photographers to send photos to Flores and discussed appropriation of funds to purchase any available photos or to hire a photographer to capture new ones.
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