Everyone Wins: Productive Partnerships Possible between CVBs and Local Governments
An Interview with Tom Galyon, CDME, president & CEO, Greater Lansing CVB, Michigan
Tom Galyon has led the Greater Lansing CVB for more than nine years, and has more than 20 years experience in the travel and tourism industry. As a CVB president, he is on the front lines of community relations every day, and offers the following insights on the positive effects a good working relationship between the local government and the CVB can have on a community.
Q: Why should local government leaders value tourism--and consequently, the convention and visitors bureau?
A: Tourism is the best short-term means of economic development that exists. Every segment of the local economy is impacted by tourism--construction, agriculture, transportation, as well as restaurants, attractions and hotels. The CVB's primary function is to market the destination for visitors and meetings, bringing in their dollars to community business, providing jobs and income. A positive, collaborative working relationship between say, the mayor's office and the CVB, benefits everyone. The local economic development committee might have a great relationship with a key hotel manager. That's wonderful, but it's not enough. A relationship should be forged with the CVB as well. Look at it this way: a hotelier is selling four walls, a CVB is selling a massive area.
Q: Where can a "meeting of minds" between local government and the CVB on the subject of tourism begin?
A: In many communities, the local government appoints community members to sit on tourism boards or committees. It is on these committees that we begin to get an understanding about where tourism in our community is going. It's very important that a wide range of community stakeholders take part in tourism committees. If the local government appoints committee seats, it should choose people who have an interest in growing the tourism product. They don't all have to be hoteliers. Local business owners, restaurateurs, community group leaders--all have vital input on the tourism subject that both the government and the CVB need to hear.
Q: What if the destination also has a Chamber of Commerce? How can that body work with the CVB?
A: CVBs should forge relationship with chambers, and cooperate in common areas of interest: economic development, relocation packages; combine background information, staffing resources. Often times, chambers and CVBs may be doing duplicative work--area maps and guides, for example. Now there's a great area for collaboration.
Q: Explain what you see as the best use of the "bed tax," and how partnership comes in to play in this area.
A: The bed tax, or tax collected on a hotel stay, is seen by the local government as open for use. It's money left behind by visitors. These visitors come and stay for a night or a week, and then move on. They don't require anything else from the local government. The bed tax is money that local government does not receive from its citizens. This "free" money should be used for projects that in the long run will help the community grow; help to ensure that visitors will continue to come. That's why in many destinations, a percentage of the bed tax funds the CVB. In my opinion, monies from the bed tax should be used to promote the tourism product only and not pet projects of a local politician. …