Unified approach is the best
The local hotel/motel business must be pretty good.
In July 2011, because of budget concerns, Mayor Laurel Prussing pulled Urbana out of the Champaign County Convention & Visitors Bureau.
The decision saved the city $72,000, money the mayor contended would be better spent elsewhere. In the face of concerns that withdrawing from the convention and visitors bureau would reduce hotel/motel use in the city, she said Urbana would pursue its own efforts to attract visitors to the community.
Now Prussing is characterizing her decision as the correct one, citing an increase in hotel/motel taxes as evidence. Not only, she said, did Urbana not suffer financially as a result of dropping out of the convention and visitors bureau, but hotel/motel owners in Urbana also did not suffer from a subsequent decision to increase the hotel/motel tax from 5 percent to 6 percent.
In the 2011-12 fiscal year, Urbana collected $651,498 in hotel/motel taxes. The 2012-13 tax receipts for Urbana jumped to $835,598, a 35 percent increase.
Champaign collected $1,471,788 in hotel/motel taxes for 2011-2012 and $1,613,279 for 2012-13, a 9.6 percent growth rate.
It's great that Urbana's hotel/motel taxes are doing well. But that doesn't necessarily demonstrate that Urbana's withdrawal from the convention and visitors bureau was a good decision. At the most, one could say that the city's decision was not as harmful to Urbana as some people feared it might be.
Collaborative efforts involving numerous partners, like those in the convention and visitors bureau, are superior to individual efforts by individual communities. The efficiencies, assuming the organization is well-run, are simply undeniable as they relate to the common good.
Prussing made her decision about withdrawal because of budget constraints, and her decision is understandable. After all, her first allegiance is to Urbana.
But budget issues aside, the entire community will be best served when there is a single effort devoted to attracting visitors rather than the current division of labor.