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Tourism Tax Issues

Greater Warrensburg Area Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center Tourism Annual Report for 1998-1999
As presented to the Tourism Board on 10/14/99
With Commentary!

Text of Annual Report My Commentary
With the approval of the lodging tax in April 1998, Warrensburg has been able to further tourism efforts an ultimately improve its promotion of the community to others. The Greater Warrensburg Chamber of Commerce hired a tourism administrator in January 1999 to get the position up and running. A strategic plan was developed with a tourism initiative for April 1, 1999 - December 31, 2000. A Cooperative Marketing Initiative Plan was written and later approved with the cooperative marketing program of the Missouri Division of Tourism. The initial administrator was a 'grant writing' expert.
I haven't seen the 'strategic plan' yet.
The cooperative marketing project approved by the Division of Tourism involves promoting Powell Gardens (a botanical garden 20 miles from Warrensburg) along I-70
In January, we began keeping statistics on visitors. From January to September 1999 we have been open 192 days, had 642 tourism visitors and 1141 tourism telephone calls. That's about 3 visitors a day, 6 calls a day. Lots of room for improvement!
In June 1999, a permanent tourism administrator was hired. Since that time, many projects have been put into action and many will be continuous programs. One of the first projects was to include the greater Warrensburg areas' community information in various travel and reference publications. (Community section of McLeod phone book, Missouri Travel Guide, Missouri Calendar of Events, Missouri Heritage Calendar, Kansas City Daybook). A full-time person is a good move if the person works for conventions and tourism and is not distracted onto routine Chamber functions
Most of the publications listed are free information listings (I'm not sure about the KC Daybook) and some have been done in the past. The report should indicate direct and indirect costs of the person and the efforts cited
An information rack was added to the Chamber lobby to provide as much free information to visitors as possible. We began having visitors sign a "visitors sheet" to help track how many visitors come to the office each month and what information is provided to them. The report should include the date the rack was installed and what's included on it (there used to be a rack, but it was taken down supposedly because it was messy).
When did they start tracking visitors and what were the results to date?
Visitor information was put into the Amtrak waiting room and a bulletin board obtained to display permanent information. The visitor information packets used for mailing purposes were revamped including turning the points of interest list into a map for easier visitor use. When was the BBoard installed and what data is included? What information is now included in the visitor packet and how is this an improvement?
A community calendar was compiled. Letters were sent to local civic/non profit groups asking them to let us know of their group's upcoming activities. A notice was put in both newspapers and on the radio. Once all the events were compiled, a bookmark was created listing all the events during the current three month period. Table tents were created and placed in local restaurants. The calendar is sent to local motel/bed and breakfasts periodically so they can let their guest know of events. The calendar is continually updated and reproduced quarterly. A schedule of events is a high priority - it's good that they're doing one. However - since I've never seen one of these table tents, it'd be nice to know which restaurants (or the criteria for selecting restaurants). The report should also include quantities printed of these pieces and the cost.
An area business guide and community information was distributed to 100 new international students at CMSU. The business guide lists all chamber members by category to make shopping, doing business and recreation easier for a new community member. While support of international students is important, it's more of a newcomer welcome project than tourism. Tourism resources should not be sidetracked into areas that are only marginally tourism.
The Visitors Center invited the Missouri Tourism Commission to the "pre" Wings Over Whiteman air show. Five of the eleven members and their families attended. This gave the commission an opportunity to learn more about our area and the progress we are making. This is a valid & important effort, since political connections can help when attempting to obtain state funds for a project. What did it cost?
Information Packets were provided to the 100 pilots that participated in the Whiteman air show. This let the pilots and crews know what is in and around the area and what they could do in the off time. A valid distribution; however, 100 pilots isn't a large number of potential visitors.
The Chamber provided special event parking for the air show. Shuttle buses provided by Whiteman ran on a continuous basis transporting event goers. The parking lot was promoted to the surrounding cities. Visitors were able to use Warrensburg's many restaurants and hotels during the two-day air show. What kind of expenditure from tourism funds did this entail? How much was spent on publicizing the service to the Kansas City area? How many people patronized the lot?
Unfortunately, the air show occurred during the State Fair, which is a full-lodging time anyway.
The Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center participate in Operation Right Start twice a month. Right Start is a Whiteman Air Force base program to brief new military personnel about their new community. We let them know about Warrensburg and all the services our community provides. How many people were introduced to Warrensburg at these events? What tourism information, as opposed to normal retail and service business, information was provided? Tourism money should not be spent on telling people how to contact the electric company or where the car dealers are.
The Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center shared a booth for a day at the Missouri State Fair with the Missouri Division of Tourism. This allowed the opportunity to reach a wide audience of people and provide informational material about our area. A good, low-cost chance to reach a lot of people. What brochures and how many of them were given out?
The Visitors Center would like to create more partnerships with other organizations. The most recent partnership is with the Johnson County Historical Society. We are discussing exchanging memberships, linking web pages and providing space in our office for the Historical Society to display artifacts and let more people know about their organization. The Historical Society has a decent museum and an excellent geneolgy library and would make a good attraction. How does the Chamber intend to publicize the JCHS outside the area?
Old Drum Days, Warrensburg's fall festival, was very successful this year in part by the tourism promotion. The tourism administrator visited 16 surrounding cities distributing information about the festival and sent press releases to those city's newspapers and public service announcements to the radio stations. This statement conflicts with newspaper reports that the Chamber Board is concerned about Old Drum Days. Publicity is fine, but this is a prime example of an 'attraction' that needs a facelift and some more development. Barring an exceptional attraction, people won't come if there aren't any booths. But, you won't have booths unless the folks that run them think there'll be enough visitors so they can make money!
As you can see, much has been accomplished in the past year and there are many great projects to come. Through tourism efforts we can let others know what a truly great place Warrensburg is to work, live and visit. While Warrensburg is indeed a great place to work & live, tourism tax money needs to be spent to convince people that we're a good place to visit, as well.

A complete annual report should list projects that are planned. Here's some projects that weren't discussed at all:

  • Internet presence, connections and promotion
  • Attracting special events ('conventions') to CMSU, the Community Center, or the community building at the Fairgrounds
  • Upgrading the Old Drum Days festival
  • Lodging monitor system (tracking vacancies during peak times to help desperate visitors and keep them in Warrensburg

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