With a $35,000 decrease in its marketing budget, the Quad-Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau has made some difficult decisions.
For instance, the bureau turned down another chance to host the Sports Illinois Huddle, a two-day conference with tourism bureaus and sporting organizations. The bureau hosted the 2017 huddle in May.
While the Quad-Cities turned down the Sports Huddle, "Rockford said yes," said Joe Taylor, president and CEO.
With a new estimated $45 million BettPlex sports complex under construction, Taylor said it will be important to keep the Quad-Cities "top of mind" as a sporting venue.
"We have to (find new revenue sources) if we want to remain competitive," he said.
The decrease in 2018 marketing dollars includes $25,000 less from the City of Davenport, which has decreased its funding to $375,000 next year, as well as $10,000 less from the State of Illinois' Local Tourism and Convention Bureau grant. In addition, the bureau is facing a third year without the Illinois Marketing Partnership grant, a matching grant, which has reduced the bureau's marketing funds by about $50,000 a year.
On Thursday, the bureau will discuss new options, including a destination marketing fee added to hotel stays in the Quad-Cities.
The Partners Meeting, set for 9 a.m. at the TaxSlayer Center in downtown Moline, will educate tourism partners, particularly area hoteliers, on how these fees are being used by other tourism bureaus in Iowa as well as other funding alternatives.
"The goal of the meeting is to keep the conversation going about destination marketing fees in the Quad-Cities and to see if this is a funding option," Taylor said.
The fee is a voluntary assessment placed on overnight stays that are paid by the hotel guests, he said, adding it would allow the hospitality industry to increase funding necessary for marketing to remain competitive with other cities. The Iowa cities of Dubuque, Cedar Rapids, Iowa City/Coralville, and Burlington already have a destination marketing fee program.
"The goal is to create funds to make up for the declines in destination marketing funds that really are occurring everywhere," he said.
Fees vary and can be a flat rate, a percentage or a specific dollar amount, Taylor said. He added other communities are seeing "tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands in new dollars."
A few years back, he said the bureau and its partners discussed, but dismissed, the idea of creating new Tourism Improvement Districts. Created by law, the districts would generate an extra tax that could be used for special projects. This fee would not be a tax, he said.
"The difference with the destination marketing fee is it is not paid by residents or the hotel, it's more like a check-off program," he said, adding that hotels can opt in or out of collecting it.
"The bureau will receive the funds, but will establish a special committee to decide how and when the money is to be used," Taylor said. The committee would include the bureau's hotel partners.
The partners will hear from a panel made up of: Keith Rahe, president and CEO of Travel Dubuque; Chelsea Lerud, executive director of Greater Burlington; Doug Hargrave, president and CEO of Breakaway Hospitality, Cedar Rapids; and John Groh, president and CEO of Rockford (Illinois) Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. The program begins with breakfast and networking at 8:30 a.m.