Long-time Williamsburg Hotel and Motel Association board member Doug Pons believes the recent events around leadership of the Association demonstrate its strength as an organization.
“I think that – not speaking on behalf of the Hotel Association – one of the great things about the Hotel Association is the way to make things happen is to build consensus,” says Pons, owner of the Quarterpath Inn and a former Association president.
“It’s always been true, and it’s still true today.”
Current and former board members have been sharply critical of the way in which the Hotel Association board dealt with Pat Bell, who resigned as executive director December 23.
A group of board members visited Bell at her office a week prior and demanded her resignation. A week later, at a tense board meeting, Bell submitted it and said she wouldn’t reconsider. Then board members left the Hotel Association office by the back door to elude reporters.
Pons wouldn’t comment on why Bell was asked to resign, why the board then voted to annul the results of the November board elections, and who will be the next executive director of the Hotel Association.
Pons said since the organization’s inception in 1975, it has worked to represent the interests of hoteliers in the Historic Triangle.
The membership later expanded to include bed and breakfasts and timeshares, but Pons says the mandate has remained the same: to promote and encourage the development of the hotel and motel industry through its voice in an advocacy position.
In addition to dues, the Hotel Association’s budget comes from revenue generated by its hotel reservations system, and through its magazine that promotes the Historic Triangle as a tourist destination.
Bell’s departure has brought to the surface a split in Association membership. Critics feel that the board members who organized the campaign to remove Bell are hurting the Hotel Association’s reputation in the community.
Bob Tubbs, a local bed and breakfast operator who was formerly on the board of the Hotel Association, has asked community residents for their views on whether they feel the board is providing appropriate leadership.
“The leadership puts association/community politics ahead of finding ways to sell rooms,” Tubbs wrote in an op-ed piece submitted to local media outlets.
“There is an endless stream of press debates played out in the public critical of every effort and initiative put forward.”
Tubbs wrote that the board needs to take “full responsibility” for the steep decline in hotel occupancy rates in the past few years.
He asks citizens to take an online survey at a website connected to his bed and breakfast, The Cedars of Williamsburg. Pons says Tubbs is free to express his opinion.
“I welcome debate,” he says. “Debate is good. Debate allows for issues to be put on the table so a resolution can be found, for a greater good for all of us.”
The deadline for Tubbs’ survey is January 7. He promises to share the results with leaders of the tourism industry in the Williamsburg area.