Key members of the Historic Triangle’s tourism industry are gearing up to create a more focused destination marketing association, and the local hotel association wants to continue to be included in the discussion.
Since December, several tourism heavy hitters have been looking at whether the Historic Triangle has a real destination marketing organization. The Williamsburg Area Destination Marketing Committee (WADMC), an organization created to promote overnight visitation to the Triangle by using an extra $2 tax per room/per night on hotel stays, started talking about whether the area has a true destination marketing organization (called a DMO). The Historic Triangle Collaborative, a group made up of many of the same members, has also been discussing the issue, as has the Greater Williamsburg Chamber and Tourism Alliance.
The James City County Board of Supervisors heard Tuesday that discussions indicate the Alliance will likely become the new DMO, with the roughly $3 million WADMC budget funneled there (read a detailed story on this here). The Williamsburg Hotel Motel Association has been working to be included in the DMO decision-making process (the group has a vote on WADMC), but after hearing Tuesday’s discussion the WHMA is coming up with its own proposal.
WHMA President Billy Scruggs said his organization sees the DMO scenario presented to supervisors as “a possibility,” but “the WHMA board is in the process of gathering information to make its recommendations on what this DMO’s responsibilities would be, how it would be structured, and how it would be funded.”
The WHMA wants to be sure more businesses and organizations are part of the conversation. “We… have encouraged community leaders to continue to work collectively with all stakeholders,” Scruggs said.
“This includes the Alliance, but also includes the Hotel Association, the Restaurant Association, retailers and the myriad attractions and entertainment businesses throughout the Historic Triangle, which would yield a comprehensive approach for long-term success.”
The WHMA and the Alliance have had a rocky relationship that bubbled over in July 2009, when several hotels (and restaurants) withdrew from membership in the Alliance, citing dissatisfaction with the Alliance’s tourism leadership. (Read a comprehensive story on that period here). Since that time, the WHMA has been working on its own to promote local tourism by continuing to market and book guests through its own website and launching a new Tourist Information Center.
Ironically, local hoteliers are the ones responsible for the drive to create WADMC, as they were looking for a way to generate more tax from their industry and create a fund to market tourism. Now it looks as though the $2 per night tax governed by WADMC, which they have some say over with a vote on WADMC, could be shifted into the hands of the Alliance.
Scruggs also said of the DMO discussion, “the resources and assets of the Alliance could certainly be the foundation upon which a new, more inclusive and expanded organization, with governance reflective of the new structure, could be built with broader scope.
“Bringing all of the effort, messaging and tourism destination services together would be more efficient and effective.”
James City County Administrator Robert Middaugh told supervisors that he expected to hear more definite news about the DMO talks in a few months. “This important conversation will lead to a critical decision with long-term impact on our community,” Scruggs said.