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Tourism bureau eyeing funding increase
For the first time since 1998, the Golden Isles Convention and Visitors Bureau might see a funding increase.

Working with a $2 million budget this year, the 15 percent increase, which must be approved by the Glynn County Commission, will put about $200,000 extra into the tourism bureau's coffers.

That's not much when compared to the spending power of competitors, like St. Augustine, which has a $3.2 million budget, and Charleston, with $11 million.

"An ad in a regional or national publication can be upward of $25,000," said Scott McQuade, executive director of the bureau.

The increase would be a welcome addition, but it won't be enough to develop a full-force winter marketing strategy or make up for gaps in visitation during what McQuade calls "shoulder seasons," those months between popular destination times.

But it is a step toward returning the bureau and county to a 50-50 split of accommodations taxes, which are levied on lodging.

When the bed tax was first created in 1976, Glynn County shared as much as 75 percent with the convention and visitors bureau. The bureau's cut was down to 48 percent last year.

"That was 22 years of a good, healthy split," McQuade said. "After 1998, that split has done nothing but decrease."

The decrease came about when the county began using accommodations taxes for costs like fireworks, street lights and libraries.

Keeping visitors coming to the Golden Isles isn't an easy job. It's a tough market with many destinations courting the Atlanta market, the biggest traveler to Glynn County. Eventually, McQuade hopes to tap into markets he hasn't been able to reach.

"It's as competitive as ever," McQuade said about the race to convince visitors to travel to the Golden Isles.

McQuade has been asked if perhaps marketing during summer months could be scaled back since it is always a popular tourism time.

McQuade's response: summer doesn't happen naturally.

Florida locations aggressively target Atlantans, who make up 40 percent of the bureau's audience.

"There is a great opportunity in winter, but it's going to take a lot of money to develop that market where Florida has clearly in many aspects ruled that market," McQuade said.

Glynn County Commission Chairman Mary Hunt says the county is "literally competing against the world" and wants the area to remain competitive.

"We definitely see the need for CVB to have the funds in order to advertise the Golden Isles to the best of its ability," Hunt said.

The county commission will hold a public hearing on its budget at its next regularly scheduled meeting at 6 p.m. June 6 at the Historic Courthouse, 901 G St.

* Reporter Nikki Wiley writes about government, business and other local topics. Contact her at nwiley@thebrunswicknews.com, on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 321.



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