Urbana council backs moving tourism in-house

URBANA — City council members are ready to commit city funds to internalizing the marketing and tourism promotion duties that previously had been handled by the Champaign County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Acting as the committee of the whole, council members voted unanimously in support of spending an extra $37,320 annually to bolster city staff's marketing efforts. They will need to give final approval at their next meeting.

Alderman Robert Lewis, D-Ward 3, said he thinks it will be a "more positive, more lucrative" effort.

"I think by virtue of the fact that staff, to some degree, is engaged will make it more personal," Lewis said.

Under administrators' plan, the city would make a full-time position out of what is now a part-time public arts coordinator. They would also create a new position, a community marketing associate, as a part-time job. The staffing changes would cost the city an extra $37,320 annually.

That would be the alternative to a deal that has been in place for years with the Champaign County Convention and Visitors Bureau. During the summer, Mayor Laurel Prussing vetoed $71,800 that would have gone to the bureau to handle tourism promotion.

"There's clearly a missing piece, which is to market ourselves and to make sure that we're in the driver's seat marketing ourselves," said Alderman Charlie Smyth, D-Ward 1. "And this finishes off that whole piece."

City administrators had presented the same plan to the council in December, and the representatives said it needed more work. On Monday, economic development manager Tom Carrino said the duties would not be in the hands of only the new staff members, but the entire economic development team, including support from the Urbana Business Association.

"In reality, it's much larger in that it's really about Urbana putting it's best foot forward," he said.

In other business, a scheduled discussion on roundabouts continued late Monday; check http://www.news-gazette.com for updates.

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alabaster jones 71 wrote on January 24, 2012 at 7:01 am
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Why in the world would Urbana or Champaign even have any money set aside for tourism?  Why would a tourist ever come to the C-U area?  To visit the apple orchard?  Is the reindeer ranch still open?  Do tourists like looking at cornfields and roads clogged with chain stores and huge billboards?

allergic to stupid wrote on January 24, 2012 at 9:01 am

I agree with Alabaster here.....this is not a big touroust spot. I dont understand for the life of me why anyone would want to visit here......

cretis16 wrote on January 24, 2012 at 9:01 am

Just another example of wasteful spending..I think the biggest draw for URBANA is the lovely street sculpure on the corners. I had a friend call city hall and complain that someone had left a pile of metal on the corner, but the city says it is art.  When these people have your money to spend..there's no end to the foolishness

Sid Saltfork wrote on January 24, 2012 at 10:01 am

I am not opposed to Urbana creating an office for Tourism, buying statues, building roundabouts, etc...... provided that they do it with their money.  I am opposed to county, state, and federal monies being used in any amount for Urbana's whims.  They should pay for all of their wishes with their own tax money.  They can raise their property taxes, or charge admission into their city; but don't use money that others provide for necessary services to fund their follies.

allergic to stupid wrote on January 24, 2012 at 3:01 pm

Well as an Urbana resident we are being shafted enough on our property taxes. Just because they put a few chunks of metal on the corners does not mean its a tourist attraction. *I* personally think Urbana is far to unsafe to even attempt to reel in unsuspecting people.........with all the crime they will leave as victims.

youlikeroses wrote on January 24, 2012 at 5:01 pm

I question tourism in town often, but then again there is a reason why there are so many hotels in the area.

As a long time marketer, the salaries are one thing, but where's the marketing budget? What about ads, promotions, etc?