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SUPPORTERS of the Hope Welcome Center were understandably disappointed by indications that the Bartholomew County Council will not override a recommendation by the Visitors Information and Promotion Commission to essentially give the Columbus Area Visitors Center total control of how tourism tax money is spent next year.
While such a decision could sound a death knell for the small Hope center, the stance taken by the council has to be seen as an exercise of good
To intervene in the matter would have undercut the authority of the commission, which earlier had denied Hope’s request of $92,400 for the coming fiscal year.
That meant that funds received from the innkeeper’s tax would directly go to the Columbus Visitors Center, which has a program to make grants to other tourism entities in the county.
Hope Welcome Center supporters have indicated they will follow that route and apply to the Visitors Center for funds to continue operations into 2014.
The County Council won’t take an official position on the allocation of the innkeeper money until all budgets are finalized in October, but key members already have indicated they agree with the concept of one tourism agency determining how all revenues are spent.
Although the Visitors Information and Promotion Commission had made significant grants to the welcome center in the two previous years ($48,000 in 2011 and $82,500 in 2012), serious concerns were raised about the lack of a cohesive business plan in this year’s grant request. The request for $92,400 was denied on a 6-4 vote.
Hope supporters had hoped the council would intervene, override the commission’s decision and grant the center the needed funds to continue operations through 2014.
That would have been a bad precedent to set, not only in the matter of tourism allocations but in the decisions of all governmental agencies and departments. It poses the inevitable question of why those agencies and departments would be needed if their officers are going to be second-guessed and overruled by the parent organization.
The council also would be on solid ground in supporting the commission’s philosophy of centralizing tourism dollars in the Visitors Center.
This is an organization that has been managed and operated by professionals in the field of tourism who have brought millions of dollars into the Bartholomew County economy. They have developed marketing plans and promotional programs that have literally put the Columbus area on the map of outstanding places to visit.
While Columbus’ architecture remains the primary drawing card, the center has branched out to become involved in promoting other visitor aspects such as sporting events, the Columbus in Bloom program and shopping opportunities.
It has provided grants for programs and events throughout the county, especially Hope Heritage Days.
Tourism has become a major contributor to the county’s economy, and it can only continue to thrive if it is managed, promoted and controlled by professionals adept in their field.
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