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Tourism eyed for lodging revenue

Use the tax monies to bring in new visitors, a committee says.

Magazine ads, kiosks and visitors guides are a few spending recommendations issued by the city’s Lodging Tax Advisory Committee Monday to support tourism on the island.

The city collects tax on overnight lodging, dropping it into a special fund to support and promote recreational travel to the island. The city expects to increase the current balance of $15,000 to about $65,000 by the end of next year.

Efforts led by the Bainbridge Chamber of Commerce scored the highest funding recommendations, with $20,000 for kiosks and other information services.

The citizen-based committee justified the amount, stating that the chamber “is the lifeline for the lodging community” and is directly involved in “putting heads in beds.”

The Art Access guide to the island netted the second largest funding recommendation, with $15,000 earmarked for a published list of island organizations, businesses and destinations. Committee members expressed concerns that the guide’s $75 listing fee would be out of reach for some groups. The committee supported the full funding request on the condition that the guide include free listings for “public domain” organizations such as parks.

With groups asking for a combined $112,000 in requests, the committee put many projects on the chopping block. A $15,000 request to help fund the Children’s Museum marketing campaign saw the largest reduction, with the committee recommending only $2,500 for the effort.

While acknowledging there are few attractions on the island for children, committee members said it was difficult to evaluate the museum’s needs because it is not yet operating.

The Kitsap Visitors & Convention Bureau’s $12,000 request to assist with marketing was also slashed down to $2,500. In recommending the reduction, committee members noted a preference for focusing outreach primarily on Seattle rather than the county.

Other funding recommendations included $9,000 for magazine ads, $5,000 to help maintain Bainbridge Performing Arts facilities, nearly $3,000 for signs promoting waterfront trails and the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum, $2,600 for ads promoting the local art community and $1,000 for a tourism survey.

Some councilors in February expressed fears that the tax was feeding a “slush fund” for pet projects unrelated to tourism.

In an effort to narrow the focus for funding, the committee recommended a process that determines whether tourism is an organization or project’s “primary purpose” or whether tourism is an “incidental function.”

The committee defended the funding of activities that aren’t solely tourism-based, stating that tourists generally expect four hours of activities for every one-hour of travel time.

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