By Bárbara Rivera Holmes, president and CEO
Albany Area Chamber of Commerce
Albany Convention & Visitors Bureau
Structure matters. It matters in art, it matters in engineering, and it matters in organizations. The discussion around the governance structure of the Albany Convention & Visitors Bureau (ACVB) is an important one for the city of Albany, for its tax-paying citizens and tax-paying businesses, and for its dollars-spending visitors.
The ACVB, under the governance of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, has nurtured a flourishing tourism industry. Most recently, a Carl Vinson Institute of Government study commissioned by the city of Albany reported that the ACVB is performing well; is utilizing its funds for their intended purpose; has well respected and capable staff; is employing the industry’s best practices; and has a broad stakeholder input.
The ACVB is funded through the hotel-motel tax that is generated through hotel stays in Albany. The ACVB is allocated $725,000, or 31 percent, of the hotel-motel tax revenue ($2.4 million, FY 2017) that is received by the city of Albany. The Albany Area Chamber provides well-document professional services to the ACVB. It provides savings to taxpayers through shared operational services; comprehensive benefits for employees; and below market-value professional services. The Albany Area Chamber also provides executive leadership and business-led volunteer board leadership to the ACVB.
The ACVB cultivates local events — such as the Albany Snickers Marathon and Half Marathon — and works with attractions, restaurants and hoteliers. Through effective visitor and attractions marketing, sports marketing and hospitality programs, the ACVB reaches an internal audience and promotes Albany to an external audience. This draws tourists, sporting events, conferences, meetings, reunions to Albany, where people stay in our hotels; book our conference centers; utilize our facilities and services; enjoy our recreation, nature-based and outdoor activities; visit our attractions and cultural amenities; shop in our retail stores and dine in our restaurants.
There’s a feel-good component to welcoming visitors to Albany and having them enjoy our community. There’s also a lot of dollars and jobs associated with that. For the July 1, 2016-June 30, 2017 period, the city of Albany, which imposes an 8 percent hotel-motel tax on lodging, recognized $2,335,898 in revenue through the hotel-motel tax (Source: city of Albany). That’s an increase of $399,743 or 22 percent, over the July 1, 2015- June 30, 2016, period (collections of $1,936,155; source: Georgia Department of Community Affairs).
Albany’s tourism industry is growing; according to the Georgia Department of Economic Development, in 2016, the industry had an economic impact of $244 million, an increase of 5 percent over the previous year. According to the Georgia Department of Labor, in 2016 Albany supported 4,880 hospitality-related jobs, a growth of 14.5 percent since 2012. This growth — in the hotel-motel tax revenue, in tourism-related economic impact, in hospitality-related jobs — isn’t without intention nor without the effective work of the ACVB.
The city of Albany is examining a policy change to the structure of Albany’s well-performing ACVB — that is, to potentially remove it from under the umbrella of its parent agency, the Albany Area Chamber, by terminating its contract with the chamber and creating a new corporation that would contract directly with the city of Albany. The Albany City Commission will vote on this matter during meetings that start at 6 p.m. Monday, January 8.
The existing relationship of an Albany Area Chamber-led — a business led — Convention and Visitor’s Bureau has facilitated growth in Albany’s tourism industry. The existing relationship is good for the city of Albany, its citizens and its businesses.
The Chamber-CVB structure works. The Chamber-CVB structure works well for our community and our taxpayers. And structure matters.
Albany City Commission
Mayor Dorothy Hubbard
Commissioner Jon Howard, Ward 1
Commissioner Bobby Coleman, Ward II
Commissioner BJ Fletcher, Ward III
Commissioner Roger Marietta, Ward IV
Commissioner Bob Langstaff Jr., Ward V
Commissioner Tommie Postell, Ward VI