Glenwood tables action on Tourism Board changes | AspenTimes.com

Glenwood tables action on Tourism Board changes

John Stroud
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – The Glenwood Springs City Council on Thursday delayed action on the proposed creation of a new city-appointed tourism promotion board that would replace the current, chamber-run board.

The council heard from tourism-related business owners and chamber representatives, as well as one former City Council member, who questioned some of the language in the proposal, including the make-up of the new city board.

“The primary business of Glenwood Springs is tourism, and the reason we have the accommodations tax is to promote tourism,” ex-Councilman Dave Merritt said.

“But does the city really want to take on the responsibility of marketing Glenwood Springs?” he asked. “We have a chamber resort association to do that.”

The proposed new city tourism board would replace the current Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association-appointed Tourism Board. The chamber created the board in 2006, as an autonomous group to provide fiscal oversight of tourism promotion funds, which come from the city’s 2.5 percent accommodations tax.

However, some council members have been concerned that the current board can appear as self-serving, since it is mostly made up of tourism and lodging industry representatives.

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A majority of the council has said it wants to create a board that oversees the city’s tourism promotion contract but is not directly connected to the chamber, which has received the city’s tourism promotion contract for the past 22 years.

“I believe we have a moral and ethical responsibility to have this board changed,” Mayor Bruce Christensen said. “We want people who are actively involved in the tourism industry who can help the marketing program for the city succeed but who are not subject to the control of the vendor.”

Although the chamber was involved in preliminary discussions about bringing the tourism board under the auspices of the city, Chamber President and CEO Marianne Virgili said she was surprised at the language in the proposed ordinance and how soon it was on the council’s table after the earlier discussions.

“We were not even informed that this was going to be discussed tonight,” Virgili said.

She added that some of the wording related to powers of duties of the city board gives the perception that the city is forming a department of tourism.

“When I read this, that’s what I thought, and some of our board members felt that way as well,” Virgili said.

“You also say it’s not a question of the job we do, just the accountability. … I have an issue with that,” she said. “I don’t see more accountability doing it this way, I see less.”

The council postponed action on the ordinance in order to clean up some of the language, and to clarify the make-up of the new city board, which was also questioned by some in attendance Thursday night. However, a majority of the board was still leaning toward making the change.

If the ordinance passes, the new city board would operate much like the current chamber board. However, its membership would be cut from 12 members to nine.

The proposed membership would include two local lodging representatives, two representatives from other tourism-related businesses, one representative from the chamber, and four at-large citizen members. One proposed revision will stipulate that at least three of the citizen members must not be directly invested in lodging or tourism.

Bozena Gucwa, owner of the Frontier Lodge, asked that equal or better representation be given to independent lodge owners over some of the newer chain hotels. She also questioned removing power from the chamber and giving it to the city.

“We have a very good business relationship with the chamber, and I’m not sure we’ll get that with city government,” she said. “We know the chamber represents business interests and not politics.”

jstroud@postindependent.com