The Wisconsin-based waterpark resort and hotel operator that is trying to work out a deal that could result in a $300 million private sector investment in Manteca wants to know what the city is doing to promote tourism.
It is why the City Council during Thursday’s budget session talked about developing and investing in a tourism strategy.
While they don’t know what form that will take, one thing is for sure: They won’t be partnering with the Manteca Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“We sent more than $1 million to the CVB,” Councilwoman Debby Moorhead said. “I’m still wondering what they ever did.”
The CVB up until two years ago was receiving 20 percent of the city’s motel room tax receipts for the purpose of promoting tourism and to get visitors to places like Bass Pro Shops and Big League Dreams to spend more money in Manteca. The city cut off the flow of funds to the CVB. If the agreement were in place for the current fiscal year, Manteca would have sent the CVB almost $200,000.
The CVB, which conducts the downtown street fair every April, ceased having a physical office in May opting to have their presence only on the Internet with contacts made by messages via email or voicemail.
The organization is down to a part-time employee and only has four board members — significantly less than what their bylaws and filing as a non-profit organization require. It also no longer has any paying members.
Moorhead’s solution is to pump up the service contract the city has with the Manteca Chamber of Commerce that focuses on working to help the business climate in the city.
Currently the city has a $10,000 contract with the chamber plus waives $2,833 in various fees for city services needed to stage the annual downtown holiday parade and the Christmas at Library Park that was launched last year with an ice rink as the main attraction.
Moorhead tossed out a figure of $75,000 as to what she thought the council should consider increasing the chamber contract to in a bid to start discussing what could be done to pump up visitors and the spending of tourism dollars. She emphasized that wasn’t an amount set in concrete but rather a number to use to start seeing what could be done.
Mayor Steve DeBrum took it a step further and asked staff for what the city was budgeting for civic events staff was helping stage such as the Christmas at the Park that they partnered with the chamber year, the Fourth of July fireworks and associated activities, the State of the City program they worked with the chamber to stage, as well as money set aside for the city’s centennial celebration in May. The number staff came up with was $60,000.
DeBrum said the council should consider shifting the funding and those endeavors to the chamber as they looked at ways of partnering with the business organization to promote tourism.
The chamber and city staff is expected to discuss various options over the coming weeks and present a possible proposal for council consideration. While funding for those endeavors are already in the proposed budget, the mayor agreed with Finance Director Suzanne Mallory any additional funding could possibly come from the reserve set aside for economic revitalization.
Ironically, the chamber in the late 1990s started a visitors’ bureau that was under their umbrella. After several years, CVB proponents established a free-standing bureau using the street fair initially as its primary source of funding along with membership fees.
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