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O F F I C I A L P U B L I C AT I O N O F T H E T E X A S M U N I C I P A L L E A G U E APRIL 11 VOLUME XCVIII NUMBER 4

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Contents Published by the Texas Municipal League,

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1821 Rutherford Lane, Suite 400, Austin, Texas

VOL. XCVIII

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ISSN 1084-5356

78754-5128, 512-231-7400. This publication assumes no responsibility for statements made by contributors in signed articles. It is not operated for

Fe a t u r e s

pecuniary gain. Editor

Karla Vining

Asst. Editor Gwena Cearley Designer

Janice McLemore Graphic Design

Printing

Capital Printing

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What Would Texas Be Like With No Tourism?

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The Economy Is Tight, Marketing $s Are Limited…but Your “Brand” Carries You Through

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The Power of the Mega-Event: A Convention and Visitor Bureau’s Role

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The Unsung Ambassadors of a City: What Does Your CVB Do?

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CVB 101 for City Leaders

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Open Communication on the Value of Tourism Is Key to Success

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Convention and Visitor Bureau Structures: What Best Fits Your City’s Personality?

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Revitalization and Rebranding: Mesquite’s Real. Texas. Turn-Around.

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Collaboration…Leads to Sweet Success

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Tourism: There’s an App for That!

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The Hotel Tax “Two-Step”

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Towers’ Tidbits: The Art of Working Well with People: Relationship Skills for Work and Home

Texas Town & City (ISSN 1084-5356) is published monthly except October for $30 per year ($3.00 per single copy) by the Texas Municipal League, 1821 Rutherford Lane, Suite 400, Austin, Texas 78754-5128. Periodicals Postage Paid at Austin, Texas. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Texas Town & City, 1821 Rutherford Lane, Suite 400, Austin, Texas 78754-5128. Section 305.027, Government Code, requires legislative advertising to disclose certain information. A person who knowingly enters into a contract or other agreement to print, publish, or broadcast legislative advertising that does not contain the required information commits a Class A misdemeanor offense. Texas Town & City contains material which is legislative advertising as defined by state law. Mr. Bennett Sandlin has entered into an agreement with Capital Printing for the printing of Texas Town & City magazine. Mr. Sandlin represents the member cities of the Texas Municipal League. His address is 1821 Rutherford Lane, Suite 400, Austin, Texas 78754-5128.

About the Cover Texans are proud to show off the Lone Star State and their hometowns to prospective residents and visitors alike. Whether you hail from near or far and plan to stay a day or a lifetime, Texas cities warmly beckon, “Y’all, Come!”

In Every Issue 5 Message from the President 6 Small Cities’ Corner 8 Legal Q&A 59 Professional Cards

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About the Texas Municipal League

Texas Municipal League Board of Directors

The Texas Municipal League exists solely to provide services to Texas cities. Since its formation in 1913, the League’s mission has remained the same: to serve the needs and advocate the interests of its members. Membership in the League is voluntary and is open to any city in Texas. From the original 13 members, TML’s membership has grown to more than 1,100 cities. Over 16,000 mayors, councilmembers, city managers, city attorneys, and department heads are member officials of the League by virtue of their cities’participation.

President Dr. Robert Cluck, Mayor, Arlington

President-Elect Leonard Reed, Mayor, Willis

Past Presidents Debra McCartt, Mayor, Amarillo John Cook, Mayor, El Paso Henry Wilson, Councilmember, Hurst Terry Henley, Mayor Pro Tem, Meadows Place Jackie Levingston, Mayor, Groesbeck Guy Goodson, City Attorney, Vidor

The League provides a variety of services to its member cities. One of the principal purposes of the League is to advocate municipal interests at the state and federal levels. Among the thousands of bills introduced during each session of the Texas Legislature are hundreds of bills that would affect cities. The League, working through its Legislative Services Department, attempts to defeat detrimental city-related bills and to facilitate the passage of legislation designed to improve the ability of municipal governments to operate effectively.

Directors-at-Large Dr. Robert Cluck, Mayor, Arlington Bill Spelman, Councilmember, Austin Joe Adame, Mayor, Corpus Christi Dwaine Caraway, Mayor, Dallas Ann Morgan Lilly, City Representative, El Paso Jungus Jordan, Councilmember, Fort Worth James Rodriguez, Councilmember, Houston Justin Rodriguez, Councilmember, San Antonio

Regional Directors 2-Kevin Caddell, Mayor, Dalhart 3-Jim Winn, Mayor, Sundown

The League employs full-time attorneys who are available to provide member cities with advice and information on municipal legal matters. On a daily basis, the legal staff responds to member cities’ written and oral questions on a wide variety of legal matters.

4-Barbara Graff, Councilmember, Odessa

The League annually conducts a variety of conferences and training seminars to enhance the knowledge and skills of municipal officials in the state. In addition, the League also publishes a variety of printed materials to assist member cities in performing their duties. The best known of these is the League’s monthly magazine, Texas Town & City. Each issue focuses on a variety of contemporary municipal issues, including survey results to respond to member inquiries.

11-Sam Fugate, Mayor, Kingsville

5-Dorothy Roberts-Burns, Mayor Pro Tem, Wichita Falls 6-Anthony Williams, Councilmember, Abilene 7-Ray Aranda, Jr., Mayor Pro Tem, Dilley 8-Allen Harris, Councilmember, The Colony 9-Randy H. Riggs, Councilmember, Waco 10-Victor Gonzales, Mayor Pro Tem, Pflugerville 12-Vacant 13-John Monaco, Mayor, Mesquite 14-Thomas Abraham, Mayor Pro Tem, Sugar Land

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Texas Police Chiefs Association Randy Criswell, City Manager, Canyon Texas City Management Association Pamela Gidney, Tax Assessor/Collector, Richardson Texas Association of Municipal Tax Administrators Norma Aguilar Grimaldo, City Secretary, Odessa Texas Municipal Clerks Association, Inc. Bonita J. Hall, Human Resources Director, Pearland Texas Municipal Human Resources Association David Harris, Director of Utilities,Brownwood Texas Municipal Utilities Association Andrew A. Jones, Jr., Fire Chief, North Richland Hills Texas Fire Chiefs Association James Kunke, Community Relations and Tourism Director, Lewisville Texas Association of Municipal Information Officers John Lettelleir, Director of Development Services, Frisco Texas Chapter of the American Planning Association Shona Bohon, Court Administrator, Midland Texas Court Clerks Association Jim Olk, Building Official, Farmers Branch Building Officials Association of Texas Marsha Reed, Chief Operating Officer, Lubbock Texas Public Works Association Pat Reynolds, Purchasing Agent, Leander Texas Public Purchasing Association Theresa Scott, Councilmember, Elgin Texas Association of Black City Council Members Scott E. Swigert, Parks and Recreation Manager, Midland Texas Municipal Parks, Recreation and Tourism Association Daniel Tejada, Mayor, Floresville Association of Hispanic Municipal Officials Steve Williams, Director of Finance, Conroe Government Finance Officers Association of Texas

15-Robert Haberle, Mayor, Jacksonville 16-Barbara McIntyre, Mayor Pro Tem, Cleveland

Affiliate Directors Charles Anderson, City Attorney, Irving Texas City Attorneys Association Mark Brinkley, Health Administrator, San Marcos Texas Association of Municipal Health Officials Marie A. Briseño, Councilmember, Lamesa Association of Mayors, Councilmembers

For additional information on any of these services, contact the Texas Municipal League at 512-231-7400 or visit our Web site, www.tml.org.

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G.M. Cox, Chief of Police, Murphy

Ex-Officio Non-Voting Invited Representatives TML Intergovernmental Employee Benefits Pool Michael T. Slye, Town Manager, Town of Trophy Club

TML Intergovernmental Risk Pool Mary Gauer, Harker Heights

and Commissioners Steve Brown, Library Director, North Richland Hills Texas Municipal Library Directors Association

TML Executive Director Bennett Sandlin

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Message from the President Dr. Robert Cluck Mayor, Arlington

Dear Texas City Official, For 17 years now, the April issue of Texas Town & City has been a special one, highlighting a subject that is vitally important to our state as a whole and to our cities individually—the tourism and travel industry in Texas. Again this year, the League partnered with the Texas Association of Convention and Visitor Bureaus, along with many local bureaus, to produce this magazine. In it, you’ll find a variety of articles and information that will serve as valuable resources to all city officials as we expand the travel and tourism industries in our own cities. As mayor of Arlington, I am proud that one of the city’s highest priorities is making our city not only a great place to live, but also a fantastic place to visit. Bringing visitors to our city is big business. In the past few months, the City of Arlington has played host to two major sporting events—the World Series and the Super Bowl. Both of these events tested our city and the surrounding area on our hospitality. I am proud to say that, with the exception of the unusual weather we experienced during the Super Bowl, we met the needs of our visitors and expect many return visitors. Arlington is at the crossroads of seven major highways, several Amtrak train routes, and two major airports. Entertainment opportunities, other than the Texas Rangers Ballpark and the Dallas Cowboys Stadium, include the original Six Flags Over Texas, Hurricane Harbor, Lake Arlington (with 2,250 surface acres of fun), and the biggest and best planetarium in the Metroplex—plus golf courses, a vibrant arts community, plenty of lodging and restaurant options, and much more! I hope you’ll plan a visit to my hometown very soon. Meanwhile, I encourage you to read this magazine carefully and share your thoughts with others in your city who have a role in promoting it as a travel destination. Every city in this state has unique features to offer visitors, and each one can benefit from the booming travel industry in Texas. Sincerely,

Robert Cluck TML President

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Small Cities’ Corner Canton’s First Monday Trade Days: Yesterday and Today By Mercy L. Rushing, Executive Director, Canton Economic Development Corporation/Canton Visitors Bureau; Andy McCuisition, Canton City Manager; and Lonny Cluck, Canton Assistant City Manager

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hen the circuit judge stopped in Canton on the first Monday of each month in the 1850s to hold court, people from across Van Zandt and surrounding counties came to the Courthouse Square to watch court proceedings and take care of business. Many brought their own goods to sell or trade, including produce, farm equipment, and livestock. Thus was born First Monday Trade Day in Canton, which quickly earned a statewide reputation as the best place to buy a good horse. In the early years of the First Monday sale, little money changed hands. Most people came to town to swap or exchange their unneeded or surplus stock for various desired items by means of barter. First Monday was all about the trade. In fact, the trade day was commonly referred to as “Hoss Monday” because horse (“hoss”) owners used the day to swap animals with each other. As the tractor came in and the need for horses declined in the 1940s, hog and dog trading took the place of horses. Buyers came from surrounding states to purchase the finest cholera-free pigs sold anywhere. First Monday also became the place to go to find a good hunting dog. Dog trading became so popular that many began referring to First Monday as “Dog Monday.” By 1965, First Monday Trade Days had outgrown the Courthouse Square, so the City of Canton purchased six acres just two blocks from the Courthouse, and the sale moved off the square. While the sale originally took place only on Monday, over the years it grew to incorporate the weekend prior to the first Monday of the month. Today, trade days are Thursday through Sunday prior to the first Monday, and the sale takes place year-round, rain or shine, with booths open from about 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. or dark. As First Monday Trade Days has grown into a national phenomenon, the city has often adjusted and adapted in many ways. Mercy L. Rushing, executive director of the Canton Economic Development Corporation/Canton Visitors Bureau; Andy McCuisition, Canton City Manager; and Lonny Cluck, Canton Assistant City Manager, graciously agreed to answer some questions about how the event has changed over the years, what the challenges are today, and what the city leaders have learned.

What is the impact of Trade Days on the city now? There is at least a two-fold impact: First, the city’s sales tax is approximately $2.7 million a year, which can largely be attributed to First Monday Trade Days. Second is rental and parking. First Monday Trade Days consists of 450-500 acres—with the City of Canton owning approximately 100 acres—and generates around $2.6 million in annual rentals. We want to point out that there are five major owners of First Monday Trade Days; the city owns only about 20 percent, and the other four owners are private entrepreneurs.

How many people come on an average weekend? Anywhere from 100,000 to 400,000 people attend monthly, with the weather playing a large part in how many attend. According to a study that leading Economist Ray Perryman completed last year, First Monday has approximately two million appearances annually.

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What are some of the challenges the city faces in dealing with today’s crowd? There are several challenges, including traffic control of vehicles and pedestrians, especially during our heavy market days; having enough cell tower capacity for cell phones and credit card machines; and parking, particularly during heavy trade day’s months due to the distance from the actual parking spaces to trade areas.

What is the involvement by the city in coping with the attendees (police, public works, EMS, and so on)? The city uses all its resources—police, fire, public works, EMS, code enforcement officers and animal control (to make sure city and state laws are being enforced), and the city’s visitor information center. The city supervisors and staff are very involved from beginning to end every month.

What is the financial impact on the city (both positive and negative)? The biggest positive impact is economic. For a city with a population of 5,147, the additional revenues that stream from First Monday Trade Days—sales tax, hotel/motel tax, rentals, and services—afford the City of Canton an income base usually associated with a much larger city. This keeps our property tax lower than most. Two negative impacts come to mind: First, the city must deal with all the trash and traffic created on a monthly basis. Second, the constant improvements and maintenance of city utilities and road services that are required place a strain on the city’s public works annual budget.

that out of town visitors require)? And what is the impact on the local economy in terms of employment and so on? Because of First Monday Trade Days, support services for the show—like tents, ice, scooter vehicles for the handicapped or elderly, and so on—have continuously flourished in Canton. Due to the monthly shows, we have well known chain restaurants and more than 45 lodging facilities within the city limits. We have a first-class resort, and we have nine RV parks/campgrounds with more than 2,000 recreational vehicle spaces within the city. First Monday Trade Days operates as the largest retail incubator in the State of Texas, where entrepreneurs can fulfill their dream of having their own unique business. Because of First Monday Trade Days, we provide part-time jobs monthly to our local citizens. Canton is a Certified Retirement Community, and we have senior citizens who chose Canton for their home because they saw an opportunity to open their own business with a smaller scale investment or secure a part-time job from vendors needing help during First Monday Trade Days. For more information about First Monday Trade Days, dial 877-462-7467, e-mail info@visitcantontex.com, or visit www.visitcantontx.com. ★

Helping cities throughout America realize retail recruitment results since 2000.

What advice do you have for a city that sponsors an event and wants to grow it (festival or other special event)? Make sure you have the support of your city, and listen to your vendors, as well as the customers. Know that your city government will, and needs to be, involved with providing resources and staffing to make your event successful. Last but not least, you must get the word out by constant marketing and by branding your event. It’s very important to include social media and new high-tech mediums in this effort. First Monday Trade Days has a FREE APP that can be downloaded on i-Phones and Androids to promote First Monday to customers and vendors alike. We have vendors/ shoppers from all over the United States who support our event, and it is important that they feel welcome and know the City of Canton appreciates their business.

How has this event attracted other businesses to the area (restaurants, hotels, other services

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Do you have questions about how to increase retail revenue in your community? ASK THE COACH: info@theretailcoach.net

APRIL 2011

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ANNOUNCING OUR NEW DALLAS OFFICE: P.O. Box 612765 Dallas, TX 75261-2765 Call: 662.844.2155 www.theretailcoach.net

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Legal Q & A By Scott Houston TML General Counsel

Note: Cities have various interests relating to how they and their citizens get electric service, how cities with municipally owned electric utilities provide service, and the prices that everyone pays for electricity. Cities also receive franchise fees from utilities that use their rights-of-way, and they have original jurisdiction over the rates of investor owned utilities in their cities. How electricity is provided in Texas is complex and based on many moving parts in an always changing puzzle, there’s no doubt about that. The following questions and answers attempt to provide a “primer” on the issues facing cities in this area.

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What are the different ways cities and their citizens get their electricity?

Cities and their citizens generally get their electricity in one of three ways: (1) from a municipally owned utility (MOU); (2) from an investor owned utility (IOU); or (3) from a rural electric cooperative (Coop). Each of those providers usually has a monopoly in the areas they serve, based on a certificate from the state Public Utility Commission (PUC). (Note: A few areas of the state are served by river authorities and municipal power agencies. Also, with regard to an IOU, only the transmission and distribution component, discussed below, has a geographical monopoly in the deregulated market.) After deregulation, MOUs and Coops retain that monopoly status, unless they choose—by a vote of their governing body—to adopt customer choice. The reasons for allowing MOUs and Coops discretion to retain their monopoly status are many, but one of the most important is that MOU and Coop rates are governed by a city council or board, the members of which are elected by the customers. The city council or board of directors is therefore accountable directly to the customers they serve. IOUs are also governed by a board of directors, but they are accountable to their shareholders, rather than their customers. The rates of investor-owned transmission and distribution utility (discussed below) are regulated by the Texas Public Utility Commission (PUC) in a way that should—in theory—cover costs of operation and allow for a reasonable profit.

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What is electric deregulation, and why should city officials care? In 1999, legislation was enacted to deregulate the portion of the state that is served by IOUs. MOUs and Coops

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are given the option to participate in the deregulated market by “opting in” to competition. However, to date no MOU has opted in. Prior to deregulation being fully implemented in 2002, a single IOU performed all the things necessary to provide service to customers within its designated service area. In simple terms, the legislation “broke up” or “unbundled” investor owned utility monopolies. Those utilities were divided up into different components: generation, transmission and distribution, and retail service. Some utilities sold one or two of those parts of their business, while others created subsidiary companies to run them. Generation companies obviously make the power through power plants, wind farms, and other means. Transmission and distribution companies move the power from the generators to other parts of the state with huge transmission lines, and ultimately distribute it to the customers through smaller distribution lines. While the generation and retail portions of the market are now deregulated, the rates of transmission and distribution utilities are still regulated by cities and the PUC. That is necessary because the companies that generate power must have a reliable way to get that power to the retail companies, which actually sell the power to customers. The retail companies are numerous and essentially speculate as to how much generation will cost them. They then offer price plans to consumers accordingly. They are the ones with which customers in a deregulated area interact. Customers can switch retail companies to try to get the best possible rate. Certain areas of the state—including the Panhandle, El Paso, and certain areas in the northeast and southeast portions of the state—are served by IOUs, but have not been deregulated. Those areas are not a part of the main transmission grid in Texas. Thus, deregulation is impractical. Whether deregulation has been beneficial to cities and their citizens remains the subject of heated debate. One thing is sure: deregulation has changed the way cities in the deregulated market

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tion

purchase power for city facilities. One way cities and other political subdivisions do that is by a process called aggregation. Aggregation means just what it says: Cities join together, or “aggregate,” to purchase energy at a better price than they could obtain by themselves. (Note: State law also authorizes citizens to aggregate, but the logistics of that process have made it all but useless. Previous legislative efforts to allow cities to automatically bundle-up their citizens and negotiate on the citizens’ behalf have failed.) The most well-known aggregation group is called the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power, which represents more than 100 cities.

Q A

Does anyone oversee the complex deregulated electricity market?

Yes. The PUC is supposed to monitor the generation, transmission, distribution, and sale of electricity and protect against any company attempting to manipulate the deregulated market. Reviews of the PUC’s performance in this role have varied. In addition, the law provides that an independent entity will oversee important operational aspects of the deregulated market. That entity is known as the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). ERCOT is not a governmental entity; rather, it is a non-profit corporation that is supposed to maintain the flow of power across the market, oversee the operations of the wholesale electricity market, supervise transmission planning, ensure that there is always adequate power available on the grid, and take action to minimize congestion on transmission lines. As with the PUC, reviews of ERCOT’s performance have varied. Most recently, pointed questions were directed to ERCOT regarding its accountability for rolling blackouts. Increasing prices, claims of market manipulation by certain companies, internal scandals, and administrative difficulties have somewhat marred ERCOT’s reputation.

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state leaders continue to applaud the Texas deregulated market as one that has created lower prices. For a number of reasons, that is questionable. It would also appear that MOUs aren’t convinced, and that their citizens prefer the consistently lower prices and better service that they provide. It’s a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” MOUs can wait and see if opting in to deregulation would really benefit their customers. Also, an MOU that opts in is essentially stuck with that decision. Further, opting into competition would require an MOU to undertake the complex and expensive process of breaking up its service into the three components of the deregulated market (that is, generation, transmission and distribution, and retail).

Q A

What are recent criticisms levied against MOUs?

Some MOUs have been criticized recently for transferring some of their profits to the city’s general fund. Interestingly, even larger cities that transfer large amounts of revenue have electric rates that are comparable to, or lower than, IOUs serving the deregulated market.

(continued on page 56)

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How are electric service areas defined?

The PUC issues certificates for most entities that provide electric service. Once an entity has received a certificate, it is an arduous process to modify it. Note that the PUC is authorized to, and has, issued “dual” certificates to allow more than one entity to serve an area.

Q A

Why aren’t MOUs opting into the deregulated market? Even though they are not required to do so, MOUs have the discretion to opt in to the deregulated market. Many

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What Would Texas Be Like with No Tourism? By Charlie McIlvain

CTP, Director, Granbury Convention and Visitors Bureau and 2010-2011 Texas Convention and Visitor Bureau President

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isitors to our communities often go unnoticed . . . most don’t wear baggy Bermuda shorts, Hawaiian shirts, binoculars, or a camera around their necks. In fact, most of the time, visitors may dine at the next table in our favorite restaurant, shop in the same shops, or are seated next to us at local theater productions. While it is not always easy to identify visitors to our community, it wouldn’t take long to notice the negative economic impact on the State of Texas, Texas cities, and Texans if visitors to our cities and the state went away. The same identity factor, or lack of visitor identity, is the reason it is difficult to track the visitor market when they do spend time in our cities. Spending by visitors generates jobs and tax revenue for the state and every city within the state. Travel and tourism is one of the leading “exportoriented” industries in Texas, second only to the oil and gas production and related manufacturing industry in our state. What impact does travel and tourism have on Texas, and what would Texas be like if tourism didn’t exist? A good analogy may be a scene from the Christmas movie, It’s a

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Wonderful Life. The lead character, George Bailey, is down on his luck and makes a request to an angel trying to earn his wings, “that he wishes that he had never been born.” Once that wish is granted, George wanders around his hometown unrecognizable to his many friends and relatives. Furthermore, George doesn’t recognize the city, which is void of the many contributions and improvements that he had been responsible form since he had never been born. Residents of Texas and every city in Texas would feel a comparable void if tourism didn’t exist.

State tourism statistics for 2010 are not available as of this publication date. However, numbers calculated for the State Tourism Office by the research company D.K.Shifflet & Associates published the following statistics for 2009: 1. One hundredeighty-six million domestic visitors traveled to and within Texas in 2009, which generated $51.8 billion in direct travel spending in Texas. These travelers directly supported 526,000 jobs, with earnings of $15.8 billion. 2. I n t e r n a t i o n a l travelers accounted for approximately 10 percent of visitor spending at Texas destinations in 2009, or about $4.1 billion. Hotel room revenues for 2009 reached $6.17 billion, with more than 74 million room nights sold for a 53.5-percent occupancy rate. 3. Taxes generated in fiscal year (FY) 2009 by visitors to Texas equaled approximately $3 billion in state tax revenues and another $1 billion in local tax revenues. Put another way, if Texans built a wall around the state for one year and turned visitors away for that year, Texans would have to generate an additional $3 billion to maintain the same government services at the state level, and citizens

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of Texas cities would have to generate an additional $1 billion dollars to maintain current police, fire, parks, and other city services at the level residents of Texas have come to expect. Tourism’s economic impact on each Texas city, calculated by D.K. Shifflet and Associates, is available online at www.travel.state.tx.us. Texas could potentially be reaching a dangerous, unprecedented threshold regarding tourism funding. Some Texas cities, and even the state legislature, are considering major cuts in funding allocated to tourism promotion. Cutting or even eliminating funding for tourism-directed advertising and promotion may initially seem like a viable revenue source for solving government budget short falls (that is, “Citizens won’t notice cuts in the tourism promotional budgets, but they would notice cuts in highway, police, fire, utilities, and other state and city services.”). While this statement may be correct for the current year, cuts in tourism promotional budgets will have a major economic impact within a year or two. For one of the best recent examples of this phenomenon, one only has to look at the State of Colorado in the early 1990s. At that time, Colorado was the top summer resort destination in the United States. The Colorado State Legislature, thinking visitors would continue to visit Colorado without further promotional efforts, eliminated the state’s tourism department and state’s promotional funding. The state lost 30 percent in market share and fell from America’s top summer resort destination to number 17. In 1997 alone, Colorado lost about $2.4 billion in tourism revenues and $134 million in tax revenues. Colorado reinstated its tourism promotion program in 1997. Now, almost 20 years later—even with full funding and some of the most talented travel industry professionals promoting tourism in the state—

Colorado has never recaptured its ranking as the nation’s top summer resort destination. It’s never even ranked in the top ten. In addition to losing its numberone status, Colorado had a lot fewer visitors purchasing gasoline and other goods and services, patronizing attractions, dining in area restaurants, and staying in hotels. Additionally, residents of Colorado felt the loss of revenue that had previously been generated by visitors to their state and communities. Colorado residents were forced to dig deeper into their own pockets for several years, paying tax revenue that had previously been generated by visitors. Unfortunately, Texas is facing a financial crisis similar to that Colorado faced in the early ’90s. Significant state budget shortfalls and funding demands for new and/or expanded projects , while still meeting citizen demands to limit government and reduce taxes, have forced state legislators to investigate every possible funding source. House Bill 1 (H.B. 1) targets one of the most apparent sources of funding at the state level and would have a devastating effect on Texas tourism. The proposed bill severely impacts the state’s tourism advertising and promotional efforts. Only $5 million of the $30-million tourism promotion fund in the Economic Development and Tourism division of the Office of the Governor was left in the proposed budget bill. The bill also proposes significant cuts in funding for the Texas Historical Commission, the Texas Commission on the Arts, and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Texas cannot afford to repeat Colorado’s mistake. City officials, in conjunction with travel industry professionals, must unite to convince our state legislators to restore full funding for state tourism advertising and promotional efforts.

Tourism promotion has a dedicated funding source—a six-percent state hotel tax that must be secured and continue to be used to promote tourism to Texas. Only one-twelfth of the state hotel tax revenue is dedicated by statute to promote Texas as a tourism destination. The other eleven-twelfths of the state hotel tax revenues go to fund other state general revenue programs, such as education and health care. A fully funded state tourism advertising and promotional program provides a great Return on Investment (ROI); for every dollar the state spends on tourism promotion, $7.58 is retuned in state tax revenues— revenues that are used to fund all state programs. Cutting funding for state tourism promotion would significantly jeopardize this program’s revenue generating ability, which would have adverse effects on the state’s budget. Cutting city tourism promotional budgets will have the same effect at the city level. Just as a fully funded tourism effort is important to your city, state tourism funding and promotional efforts are vital to the State of Texas. Regardless of whether you are a city councilmember representing your city, or a state legislator representing your district, it is vital to collectively work together to keep visitors coming to Texas and to each of our cities. No one wants to wake up in a city or state that we don’t recognize because proper funding has not been provided for tourism promotion. It’s important to remember that a fully funded tourism promotion effort is part of the budget solution, not part of the budget problem! Travel matters because it creates jobs, generates tax revenues, and contributes to economic prosperity and quality of life. And travel matters because it can help balance state and municipal budgets! ★

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The Economy Is Tight, Marketing $s Are Limited… but Your “Brand” Carries You Through

By Steve Atkins

President and CEO, The Atkins Group

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nless you don’t have one! Well, the truth is—every city and destination does have a brand. The difference is whether or not it is an “intentional” brand, well designed and reinforced continuously, or a “haphazard” brand that exists by default. I think that Winnie the Pooh stated it well in The Tao of Pooh:

How can you get very far, If you don’t know Who You Are? How can you do what you ought, If you don’t know What You Have Got? And if you don’t know Which To Do Of all the things in front of you, Then what you’ll have when you are through Is just a mess without a clue, Of all the best that can come true If you know What and Which and Who.

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Knowing who your city is, what you have, and who it is important to… is exactly the point. Because a brand isn’t what we say it is; it is what “they” say it is. “They,” of course, being the people out there—the public, the consumers, the buyers, the travelers…bottom line, the decision-makers. What are you known for, and most importantly, what do they BELIEVE about You? Therein lies the power of BRAND. Robert Deutsch, Ph.D., is an anthropologist with expansive and extensive studies of mankind all over this planet. His summary statement about people is represented in this simple quote: “When you have a belief, facts don’t matter.” As human beings, we may pretend to be logical and pragmatic, but indeed we are driven by emotional reaction. This is a key factor in understanding the power of brand, and it is why an effective brand position can help, or not, to carry you through tough economic downturns and reduced promotional budgets. My passion in my professional career is to help organizations discover their brand and then bring it to life. When fulfilled effectively, the brand can become a “trust mark,” much akin to the thinking surrounding a trade mark, in that it is something owned by just one and registered as such, at least in the hearts and minds of the public. A trusted brand becomes known and is respected and reliable.

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A brand is just the thing to keep connected with during leaner times, when we can’t have everything and must limit our choices to the most relevant and likely to fulfill our expectations. So just how are intentional brands built, you ask? Well, there is a process of introspection, self-discovery, and honesty that must take place. It is never too late to go through the process, no matter how long a place has been in existence. “Haphazard” brands exist because people’s gut feelings about the brand construct their beliefs about it, more than promotional messages can. And oftentimes, the promotional messages do not reflect the genuine or authentic reality that exists in the human experience with the brand. So people instinctively determine what the brand stands for, instead of the brand itself having clearly and consistently portrayed its values. The brand development process should start with identifying foundational elements, which can be achieved by answering key questions: Where did our city come from? What in its history makes it unique? What is its real know-how? What is its unique or unusual way of doing things?

Our Path for Brand Development

Then, in a final step, put all the answers into the pot and boil it long enough to get to the “essence.” Arrive at the most simple, concise, and clear single statement possible and see if it fits and feels good. If it does, and you are now saying “AHA, that’s US,” you have achieved something wonderful and powerful—something with staying power and something to live by. Having a distinctive and relevant brand position will provide a strong base on which to stand during the economic slowdowns, the onslaught of new competition, the reductions of promotional messaging dollars, and most importantly, the consumers’ reduction of choices for their spending.

Who would care? How would it be described by others? What are its core values? What does it stand for? What would it fight for? Now please notice how human these questions seem. Brands can and need to create relationships with people, just like people do with other people. Humanizing this selfdiscovery, even for an inanimate product or city, is a valuable exercise to help you get at something believable. After foundational elements are established, move into creating your brand promise: Who exactly are we talking to? What do we want them to do? What are we asking them to give up or substitute? What might be barriers to their committing to this action? What rewards need to be supporting their commitment? What can we do and say that will get them to believe us?

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I have mentioned the importance of “bringing the brand to life” or “living the brand.” A living brand is a style of behavior—not a stylistic veneer. Brands are like people in many ways…you can change the clothes or the hairstyle, but Jane or Bob are still the same people, Black Tie or shorts and t-shirt. In human terms, this means to be real and don’t fake it. That focus on what is real about our brand also helps us to be consistent in crafting the messages that portray the brand. When the economy is tough and messaging must be reduced to a lower volume, this focus and consistency can help manage costs by allowing us to stick to one key premise or theme. All too often—when budgets are plush—places try to be all things to all people. In doing so, they are spending more on trying to represent different things to different audiences and in many different mediums, than they are living up to one key value targeted to a core group of “believers.” That is losing the

value of the trust mark established by the brand, and it is also wasting resources. That final thought brings me back to another great statement, and maybe an element of advice, from The Tao of Pooh: “The first thing we need to do is recognize and trust our own Inner Nature and not lose sight of it.” Wow…pretty smart little bear!!! ★ Steve Atkins is president and CEO of The Atkins Group, a Texas-based brand communications agency focusing on fully integrated campaign development that seamlessly presents a client’s messages across all platforms of traditional and interactive media. The agency has offices in San Antonio and the Rio Grande Valley.

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he Super Bowl brings power, prestige, and the eyes of the world to a destination. The NBA All-Star Game brings the celebrity, star power, and high-dollar events of professional basketball to town. The NBA Final Four brings crazed basketball fans to revel in March Madness. The Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA), the American Society of Association Executives, and the American Bus Association (ABA) bring travel and meeting professionals and key decision-makers from around North America to one destination each year for their conventions showcasing new product, ideas, and of course, the host destination. What do they all have in common? All six events are awarded through a competitive bid process, and all will have been hosted in Texas in a three year period, 2010-2012. Texas is highly visible on the worldwide stage. The benefits to the host city and region are highly publicized locally, but why should it matter to average citizens, legislators, and elected officials throughout the rest of the state?

By Jay Burress

President and CEO, Arlington Convention and Visitors Bureaus

The Power of the Mega-Event: A Convention and Visitor Bureau’s Role

The most obvious benefits are: • • • • •

Immediate economic impact Hotel and sales tax compression Image and exposure Future Pride

Economic Impact The immediate result is increased sales and hotel occupancy tax, along with direct spending within a community. The taxes spike local and statewide collections, directly attributable to the marquee event. Along with direct spending, these are new dollars to Texas, with a large portion coming from out of the state. The following are economic impact estimates of recent events in Texas: • Super Bowl XLV

$611 million (estimate; source: Marketing Information Masters)

• NCAA Final Four 2008

$61 million (source: San Antonio Sports)

• 2010 NBA All-Star Game

$152 million (source: Marketing Information Masters)

Estimates of the impact for the future from recent events in Texas include:

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• 2010 PCMA

$290 million in future convention bookings (source: Dallas CVB)

• 2010 ABA

ABA estimates that after hosting Marketplace, a destination can expect a ten-percent increase in overall group tour business over its preshow level for five consecutive years. Based on the historic number of attendees, a host city can expect to generate approximately $2.5 million in direct spending during Marketplace week. (source: Grapevine CVB)

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Indirectly, the local host committees, local municipalities, and regional governments also know “company is coming.” With the encouragement of dramatic increased spending and visibility, projects are completed in time for the big event—the new hotel, new entertainment district, new way-finding system, roads, bridges, airports, restaurants, taxi updates, museums, attractions, and more. Those projects that may have languished with no firm deadlines, now have a looming big event in the near future, encouraging targeted time frames. Many of these infrastructure developments benefit Texans long after the buzzer sounds, the closing reception clears, and the last motor coach departs Texas.

Hotel Compression Hotel and sales tax compression occurs with each event. When a hotel is chosen as the host hotel or is included in the event hotel block of rooms, the property closes those rooms available to sell in the inventory. Greater opportunities for room sales are now available to the hotels surrounding the host property throughout the city, region, and in some cases, the entire state. Meetings and events, business travel, and leisure travel not related to the Mega Event still occur. Travelers now look at additional hotels, less-booked parts of the city, and other regions in which to travel over the same dates. Travelers are exposed to new restaurants, entertainment options, taxis, and rental cars, resulting in added sales tax and economic impact. Large events such as the Super Bowl, Final Four, and NBA All-Star Game can impact hotels in neighboring cities as well as in the host city itself. Austin, Cleburne, and even Fredericksburg saw hotel activity from Super Bowl XLV. Although those cities are far from North Texas, rooms were used by groups and individuals who were travelling primarily to attend Super Bowl XLV. It’s no wonder that the North Texas Super Bowl Host Committee consisted of 90 mayors, four counties, and twelve convention and visitor bureaus that made up the 300-member committee.

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Image and Exposure Hosting such major events is great publicity for the city, region, and state due to international media coverage leading up to and during an event. Building or creating an image with media coverage is an intangible value that would take a CVB or city multi-millions to achieve. Showcasing San Antonio’s Riverwalk, Fort Worth’s Sundance Square, Houston’s Reliant Stadium and Park, Arlington’s Cowboys Stadium, or Dallas’ Victory Park and Arts District is priceless to marketing destinations. The media coverage reaches future visitors, corporate executives, meeting planners, association executives, and entrepreneurs—all visualizing what could be the next vacation, business venture, convention, corporate expansion, or relocation. The images created as a “great place to visit” also create a “great place to live and work.” The experience of the Mega Event itself also creates an image for Texas. A great experience with wonderful hotels, suitable venues, exciting entertainment options, warm people and, of course, Texas hospitality, is a perfect opportunity to say, “We want you to return to our great state again and again!” The message is most relevant when the event includes decision-makers for future business in and for Texas with travel and meeting professionals.

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Future Texas has hosted the following organizations in the last ten years: American Society of Association Executives, PCMA, International Association of Exhibitions and Events, National Business Travel Association, National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners, Rejuvenate, Connect, Meeting Planners International, National Travel Association, American Bus

Association, and Pow Wow. Each presents the opportunity for the destination to showcase itself as a potential destination for future meetings, conventions, conferences, group tours, individual business, and leisure travel. These meetings are not only about the immediate economic impact, but also about future business for Texas. Future business is not only for large cities and convention centers, but also includes

board meetings, smaller conferences, and sales meetings—all resulting from exposure to a new destination or state. In 2012, Texas is hosting the American Bus Association in Grapevine, and the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) in Dallas. At ABA, the motorcoach and group tour industry will make decisions on what destinations (usually inclusive of multiple cities and regions) will be featured and sold to consumers in the years to come. Destinations that make impressive hosts for ABA and its members, make impressive hosts for future group tours. Association executives will experience Texas with the future of the association industry in mind. The visit from meeting planners will act as a spectacular site inspection or familiarization tour as destinations present Texas and cities as a potential future site for meetings and events. A successful ASAE can mean direct spending and taxes to Texas for years to come.

Pride Texas is a proud state, and destinations are eager to show everyone in the world why Texas is a great place to visit, live, and work. Why Cowboys Stadium is the most awe-inspiring sports facility in the world. Why the Gulf is unique. Why the Valley has the best Mexican food in the world. Why the Panhandle has its own set of characters. Why football is king in Texas. Why Dallas is urban, and Fort Worth is where the west begins. Why Austin is weird. Why the Alamo is sacred. The economic impact, hotel occupancy tax, sales tax, economic development and infrastructure, positive public relations, free advertising, and future conventions, meetings, and tourism are, after all, just a bonus. ★

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The Unsung Ambassadors of a City: What Does Your CVB Do? By Blasita J. Lopez

Director, Laredo Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Member, TACVB Board of Directors

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iddle me this: What entity uses non-residential public funds but does not pick up trash, pave streets, or deliver a commodity like water, inoculations, or emergency response? The answer? Your friendly neighborhood convention and visitor bureau (CVB). Throughout the State of Texas, you will find these hoteloccupancy-tax-funded offices and their ambassador-like staff geared toward delivering a valuable service to visitors and convention delegates. That service comes in various forms, from over-the-counter information and visitor guides, to personalized registration services, to basic directions to the nearest local hotel or eatery. It’s what the CVB staff prides itself in doing.

“It is our pleasure and honor to represent the community to visitors and help them to have a valuable experience that hopefully they will want to tell someone about and also will want to make a return visit to our city. Those travelers represent an important economic impact for our city, and we appreciate that they chose to vacation or visit our town,” stated Judy Skowron, CVB director for the Mesquite Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Our staff is trained in providing information and fulfilling the various service requests from visitors, conference planners, sports tournament directors, and various other specialized group needs.” No matter where in Texas you may visit, you will find that most CVBs provide similar basic services, including:

Laredo CVB Information Counselor Mari Carmen Garcia guides tourists through the city on paper, showing them directions to a local hotel 20

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• Free visitor information/ publications • Hotel locator/room block booking services • Conference registration assistance/name badges/ welcome bags • Connections to community service providers and local government liaison Your local CVB might be a standalone agency, a city government office, or a part of your local chamber of commerce. No matter how they operate, all CVBs serve as ambassadors for many city businesses, often referring new customers in the form of visitors to area merchants. In this way, the CVB plays an important role to promote the use of local service providers, especially hotels. One example of how the CVB promotes these businesses comes in the form of meetings hosting. If a conference group utilizes a hotel, it occupies rooms and usually orders some type of food and beverages from the hotel caterer. The group may also decide to have off-conference site events, touring a part of the community or hosting a reception at a local eatery or specialty location. Each facet of the group’s needs opens an opportunity for a neighborhood business or service provider to land a new customer. “It’s mutually beneficial for us to promote the use of local hotels and businesses. Tourists’ money spent in these places either comes back to the city in the form of hotel occupancy tax or as sales tax. That translates into a

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positive impact in several city expense funds, including general revenue,” said Rosario Cabello, financial services director for the City of Laredo. Cities, counties, and the state benefit from money spent by visitors throughout. According to studies conducted by the State of Texas Tourism and Economic Development Office, for every dollar that it invests in tourism promotion, the state receives $7.35 in return from visitors who travel and spend their money within our Lone Star State borders. CVBs work hard to keep those visitors coming back and to be able to offer their clients and potential customers all of their specialized services. Hospitality can be afforded in many ways, from a small memento placed in a visitor’s room, to a warm and welcoming attitude as a conference delegate registers for an event; it’s all focused on making the most of what can be a limited experience with your city. “In working with my CVB, I’ve found they have a special touch that makes every one of our events that much better; a flawless execution creating a smooth experience for our conference attendees,” stated Laredo Police Chief Carlos Maldonado in reference to the Laredo CVB. “From finding the right hotel to meet our needs, to welcoming registration staff and assisting with making the right selections for our menus (keeping in mind that we must be budget conscious, yet still make the right impression on our attendees)—they have offered an invaluable level of service to us as one of their clients and made our visitors feel at home.” That feel of home, or a sense of belonging, can be evoked in many ways, especially through using imagery. Convention and visitor bureaus across the state pride themselves on making their destination look good through electronic and print media. They invest a good part of their time and effort in an advertising campaign

Laredo Convention and Visitors Bureau staff working the registration desk for a recent tradeshow held annually in Laredo

that integrates the most modern technology and methods of communication, including the World Wide Web, social media, billboards, and traditional print pieces. Many

times, you will see these destinations represented by a visitor guide or an advertisement placed in popular magazines such as Texas Monthly or Southern Living.

Living History! • Rosenberg Railroad Museum • Family-friendly attractions, restaurants and accommodations • Historic district and abundant antique shops • Year-round events

VisitRosenberg.com RosenbergEvents.com

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“It’s a constant process of tweaking colors and graphic elements, creative direction in a photo shoot, inviting special visitors to experience your particular attractions and hosting a familiarization tour—all these efforts impact your destination’s image. What you want to achieve is a fresh perspective for others outside your city to consume. And we work hard to make sure that it is a positive

image that is associated with our city,” says Dan Quandt about the process of marketing a destination. He is the executive director of the South Padre Island Convention and Visitors Bureau and former president of the Texas Association of CVBs Board of Directors. In the industry, CVBs are recognized as destination marketing organizations, and every effort—from

the way that a phone call is answered in the visitors’ center to the information posted on a tweet—culminates in a constant persuasive sales dialogue to gain that one additional visitor. CVBs are the ultimate sales people for their respective cities. They attend trade shows and conduct outreach events with a specific audience in mind on each trip. Sometimes it’s just about reminding potential leisure visitors about the attractions and amenities; sometimes it can be about landing a certain group’s business. “Whether it’s an e-mail or a trade show exhibit booth, staff is always ‘on.’ They represent our office and our city to the world, and they have to be quick on their feet when they are talking up our destination because you never know what other people are going to interject into the conversation. It’s important to turn any negatives into positives in that sales dialogue,” said Mariano “Bean” Ayala, president and CEO of the Brownsville Convention and Visitors Bureau. CVB sales activities truly embody the nature of being a positive city ambassador. The mystery in the riddle has been answered: There are professionals dedicated to providing excellent visitor services and sales activities statewide, and they can be found in your friendly neighborhood convention and visitor bureau. ★

How to find your friendly neighborhood CVB? Contact the Texas Association of Convention and Visitors Bureau, Inc. • On the Web: www.tacvb.org • By phone: 361-749-0467 • By e-mail: bsynder@tacvb.org

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CVB 101 for City Leaders By Diann Bayes

CTA, Executive Director, McKinney Convention and Visitors Bureau

Where Do We Come From? Since the first convention and visitor bureau formed in Detroit, Michigan, in 1896, cities and towns around the world recognized the importance of tourism-oriented economic development and the need to pursue it. Visitors to a city contribute new dollars to the city, decreasing the amount of taxes residents ultimately need to pay. The revenue visitors generate helps to fund other projects in the city, enhancing the quality of life for its citizens. Currently, more than 150 CVBs exist in the State of Texas.

Who Are We? CVBs are similar to Star Trek’s Captain Kirk—boldly going where no man has gone before. We seek out new businesses and new products while creating new activities and promoting existing products in an attempt to attract visitors. We wear various hats—from economic developers to marketing experts, destination 24

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managers to sales/service specialists, and educators to community developers.

How Do We Operate? In the CVB world, no cookie-cutter approach exists, nor would this even be feasible. The operations vary from not-for-profit 501(c) 6s, independent organizations, city departments, divisions of the local chamber of commerce, member driven entities, and more. Hotel occupancy taxes (HOT tax) comprise the majority of CVB funding, but other funding sources may include memberships, taxes on restaurants, car rentals and venues, booking engines, co-op advertising with industry partners, merchandise, and sponsorship fees.

What Do We Do? Defined simply, a CVB’s job is to sell. Our strategies vary based on the products we have to offer, products over which we have little to no control ourselves. Because the Lone Star State

contains such a wide variety of products, some CVBs sell resort settings, while others sell bustling urban cities, quaint rural towns, or popular nature areas. Some have rich histories dating back to the founding of Texas, while others incorporated just a few decades ago. Some CVBs focus primarily on leisure activities, while others work heavily with corporate travelers. We may not be all things to all visitors, but the key to our success is identifying our specific niche markets and then developing and promoting them to potential visitors.

How Do We Do It? Conduct a Community Inventory A thorough community inventory is one of a CVB’s most valuable assets. Before we can promote our product, we must first identify what we have to offer visitors. It’s critical during this process that we wear “visitor goggles” to prevent our views from being obscured by the things we personally enjoy. For example, while we may not

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personally like to hunt or fish, if there is lake in our community, it’s critical to know about its recreational areas and what kinds of wildlife populate the land and water. A community inventory must include all meeting space (all sizes) and area hotel specifics, from the number of rooms and amenities offered to their proximity to area attractions. Determine Clientele After completing the community inventory and educating staff on what is available, we begin identifying clients to whom we can sell our product. For instance, CVBs in small cities with limited meeting facilities and breakout space will have difficulty booking large convention groups. Conversely, smaller groups may be overwhelmed by a big city atmosphere, preferring to host their meetings in quaint towns with one-ofa-kind facilities. Methods for prospecting customers could include memberships, corporate sales calls, local ambassadors, sales blitzes, Internet research, and tradeshow participation. Potential clients include leisure travelers, associations, corporations, group tour operators, sporting/tournament coordinators, event planners and wedding coordinators, travel writers, and more. Dates, Space, and Rates CVBs must know dates, space availability, and rates to compete with other cities for business. Some hotels do well on weekdays with corporate and association business, but struggle to fill on weekends. Other hotels may be full of leisure guests on weekends, but suffer during the week. By getting to know the hotels, we are best poised to positively impact their occupancy figures. Developing positive relationships with our tourism partners—hotels, attractions, restaurants, vendors, and event venues—is a critical factor

to our sales strategies and negotiations. CVBs occasionally serve as the broker when negotiating contracts with meeting planners, working directly with hoteliers, venues, and planners to get the best deal for all parties and to secure signed contracts. Knowledgeable planners turn to CVB staff members because they know we have developed relationships with our partners and are their best-choice liaisons.

Special Events A majority of special events occur on weekends, taking place on just one day. While they are important in promoting a city, most CVBs do not plan these events unless they occur over several days and bring in large numbers of overnight rooms. However, CVBs do promote these activities through online and printed calendars and via social media and press releases. Because there are 365

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days in a year, it is imperative that CVB staff focus on filling hotels and meeting space over the entire year, rather than focus on single-day activities. Marketing the City Because budgets vary from one CVB to another, marketing will differ from one city to another. Advertising is imperative, and determining the best methods can be a challenge. Leisure

magazines and trade publications, e-mails, and direct mail marketing are important to the industry, but CVB staff must use newer tools in the marketing arena, too. High tech marketing is everchanging, not only with online options, but also with various handheld devices like smart phones and iPads. Keeping Web sites fresh with new materials, photos, and promotional options can help drive traffic

to a CVB’s site. Online marketing also includes social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, as well as professional and amateur blogs. Other CVBs are incorporating QR Codes in their advertising or are developing smart phone applications that provide users with pertinent city information at their fingertips. Convenience is important to the visitor, particularly when searching the Web for places to visit. CVBs provide the official calendar of events for a city, so visitors and residents alike have a convenient “one-stop shop” for learning what there is to see and do instead of scanning multiple locations for this information. Tradeshows are also critical, particularly for the meetings market, as they provide planners with important face-to-face contacts who can answer questions about a city. Therefore, it is critical that CVBs employ professionals with exceptional customer service skills. Greeting and Receiving Guests When visitors arrive at their destination, whether for business or pleasure, CVB staff serves as the city concierge. Leisure travelers frequent CVB offices or visitors centers to collect information highlighting activities in a city— maps, dining options, and attraction materials. CVB staff and volunteers greet convention and meeting attendees at meeting facilities and hotels, offering them a variety of services, including VIP welcome speeches, visitor bags, registration assistance, signage, brochures, and tour step-on guides. CVB staff and volunteers are also available to provide continuing services to planners during their entire stay. From the food server at the restaurant to the housekeeper at the hotel, all employees who come in contact with visitors will impact whether or not that person wants to return. CVBs

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offer customer service training to hospitality partners, to help them ensure the guest’s stay is positive and, as the guests are leaving the destination, to always extend the invitation to return.

How We Measure Success It is difficult to track return on investment (ROI) in some areas of the CVB industry, particularly in the leisure market. Consumer tradeshows are important for brand awareness of a city, as is advertising in leisure publications. However, a potential customer may see an ad one year and not plan a trip to that city until two years later. Tracking convention business is easier, since tradeshows and sales calls generate sales leads. Tracking the number of hotel rooms used is a simpler process once bids are presented and contracts are signed. CVBs also record lost business and/or

cancellations based on bids presented and sites selected in other cities. Regarding advertising efforts, many publications provide leads from individuals and organizations interested in coming to a city. Online marketing offers statistics from Web sites, social media, micro sites, and banner ads, providing useful information from time spent on a site to cities and states looking at CVB advertising and promotional efforts.

Community Role of CVBs CVBs work collaboratively with city leaders and community partners to ensure successful promotion of a destination. The CVB supplies city staff with its marketing plan, which clearly states CVB goals and strategies to help ensure no duplication of efforts. Because CVBs are the guardians of the city’s image to the world outside their community, city staff should

involve the CVB staff in devising and implementing a solid crisis management plan that addresses the most likely challenges. The safety and security of the visitor comes first, with the economic health of the city running a close second, whether the crisis is natural or man-made. CVBs need to know the message the city wants to communicate to visitors who are in our cities during a crisis. CVB staff members work with leisure and business travelers on a daily basis. We know what they love about our destinations and what they would like to see improved. Because visitors come to our cities, spend money, and leave, they contribute to the tax base, decreasing the amount residents pay annually in taxes. Tourism-oriented economic development is part of the solution to budget woes, and working with CVBs to develop a quality product increases the likelihood of a visitor returning again and again. ★

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Open Communication on the Value of Tourism Is Key to Success By Marla Roe

Executive Director, Frisco Convention and Visitors Bureau

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he days of convention and visitor bureaus (CVBs) reporting definite room nights, speaking only to their marketing partners (namely hotels), and being content to talk about tourism in general terms are over. The downturn in the economy spurred the “AIG Effect” (the tendency of corporations to cut down on lavish expenditures in travel and meetings to avoid appearing wasteful), and a rallying of the industry to battle negative rhetoric helped launch a movement of transparency, education, and a renewed effort to communicate to elected officials, economic development agencies, and industry constituents in a way that has never happened before. Destination Marketing Association International—a worldwide organization for destination marketing organizations, or DMOs (namely, CVBs)—realized prior to these events that things had to change in our industry and launched what is known as the Futures Study, or “The Future of Destination Marketing, Tradition, Transition and Transformation,” in 2008. When the rhetoric about the perceived “extravagant” meetings occurred in 2009, many industry organizations united to send a nationwide message

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spending thousands, if not millions, of dollars in marketing and advertisement. In addition, they add to the economic base of a city through employees, vendors, and more. What DMOs have improved upon in the past few years, and have solidified in terms of messaging, has been advanced communication with our city officials and partner organizations (like economic development corporations, or EDCs). DMOs are showing the value of the industry by providing funding and resources for tourism economic development. No longer are DMOs simply “holding their hands out” for funding in the traditional sense; they are now becoming a generator of new jobs, revitalizing projects in their cities, or being part of new developments that drive economic impact into their cities through unique funding concepts. Being at the table as an organization that can make an immediate impact on a city has never been more important than it has been in the last several years. DMOs can provide economic development concepts as they relate to tourism, meetings, and conventions; provide valuable research that local officials and economic development agencies can use when courting new businesses; and help identify “what’s next” in terms of tourism development. At the core of this, however, is a broad education and information exchange that must occur with city leaders.

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about the importance of the hospitality and tourism industry to the economic base of not only the country as a whole, but also to individual cities. Industry Web site portals—such as meetingsmeanbusines.com, poweroftravel.org, and many more—became a powerful means of communicating the value of the industry. DMOs have historically had great partnerships and relationships with their marketing partners, whether they be hotels, attractions, restaurants, or retail. These are the industries we promote and market on a daily basis. They are the bread and butter of what we offer as destinations. These partners understand our mission, participate in advancing it, and are usually an easy source of reference, validation, and a great sounding board. However, these partners are not necessarily part of funding decisions related to DMOs and do not always have the ability to participate in the dialogue, despite what great advocates they are for our cause. This does not in any way diminish how vital they are to a DMO’s efforts; in fact, they provide the backbone of the industry in a wide variety of ways—through in-kind donations, promoting the vitality of the industry, and

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The development of this relationship can take place at the most basic level, with monthly reports to city council. Because of the diverse structures of CVBs, however, this formal reporting may not occur. Despite the structure of a CVB—whether a city department, non-profit 501(c)3 or 6, or division of a chamber of commerce—the importance

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of developing mutually beneficial relationships cannot be understated. And—because we all have the same goal and objective, which is driving economic vitality into our cities—these relationships should be mutually beneficial and provide for an ongoing dialogue of participation, education, and a willingness to consider how each can serve the other. In the past, communication to city leadership has been in the form of reporting definite room nights booked and the value of those groups in terms of economic impact, in-kind media coverage, and so on. But what DMOs provide in terms of job creation, tourism product development, and enhancing existing tourism products has become increasingly vital to cities. DMOs are embracing this role with a passion. While the hotel occupancy tax is the primary source of funding for the majority of DMOs, we realize that guests who stay in our hotels spend more dollars on shopping, dining, and entertaining than they typically do on their hotel stay. Those dollars generate sales tax revenue, which then benefits the city’s general fund, the EDC’s funding, and other organizations. Both in Texas and nationally, there are many organizations that have successfully proven the value of the industry to their city officials and made a place for themselves “at the table.” DMOs should ask what value they can provide back to their cities. How do they communicate not only the value of what they provide to the city, but also address the needs of the city by helping city leaders accomplish their mission? This exchange of information needs to occur regularly so that city leadership has a clear understanding of the goals and objectives of the DMO and a clear understanding of how the DMO is meeting those goals and objectives. In addition, keeping city leadership in the loop through reporting is not enough. DMOs must engage city leaders in industry events, educate them on the issues facing the industry and how they could impact the city, and let them be a part of solutions toward improving the product and presentation of the city. As Liz Taylor, executive director of the Waco Convention and Visitors Bureau, states, “True partners are those who are committed to helping each other accomplish their own goals. If we want help and understanding from city leaders on the goals to be accomplished for tourism, we need to be sure we are helping them accomplish their goals for the whole city. That is where true respect and partnerships begin.” Tourism advocacy can take many forms and will be different in each city. The key is to start now, make sure it’s an ongoing conversation, and gather your best cheerleaders to expand the dialogue to a wide variety of groups. ★

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Convention and Visitor Bureau Structures: What Best Fits Your City’s Personality? By Judy Young, Greater New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce/Convention and Visitors Bureau; Ernie Loeffler, Fredericksburg Convention and Visitor Bureau; and Mark W. Thompson, Plano Convention and Visitors Bureau

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onvention and visitor bureaus (CVBs) have always had one fundamental mission—to solicit and service conventions and other related group business and to engage in visitor marketing/promotions that generate overnight stays for a destination, thereby enhancing and developing the economic fabric of the city. In essence, the convention and visitor bureau can also be called a destination marketing organization. The mission of CVBs, as set forth by state law, naturally positions their efforts as the primary external community branding organization; driving consistent messaging that builds community awareness on a year-round basis. Visitor centers, fulfillment materials, ad campaigns, and public relations programs become the front door to economic development. In Texas, this importer of wealth returns $7.53 for every $1 spent on tourism promotion. This mission is accomplished by fulfilling four key roles for their destination and its stakeholders: 1. Informing, educating, and advertising to the visitor 2. Creating, advising, and supporting marketers 3. Advocating the total visitor experience

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4. Supporting destination development If you were to pull the curtain back and closely look at all the moving parts of a CVB, you would be truly surprised. The core business of a CVB reaches so wide it is a challenge to expect others to understand the broad spectrum that benefits our destinations so greatly. Just the subcategories under the four areas listed above include dealing with publishers/media, advertisers, travel mavens, airlines, tour operators, hotels, visitor attractions, destination infrastructure, local visitor services, local government, industry partners, city leaders, CVB sales teams, convention sales, local organizers, out of town organizers, event management firms, group tour packagers, conference exhibitors, travel resellers, and more… Bureaus are charged with the task of developing an image that will position their cities in the marketplace as a viable destination for meetings and visitors, and that also supports a diverse set of quality-of-life amenities that serve as critical elements in all economic development efforts. Also, they must coordinate those stakeholder elements—which are quite independently diverse, yet need to be

homogenized—in order to attain that consistent, single desired message and image. Bureaus work within political climates and should be visible within a city, drawing attention to what they are doing so that the community and governmental stakeholders understand the significance and direct benefits that a healthy visitor industry brings to the bottom line. The CVB, after generating the lead/inquiry via a strategic marketing and promotions program of work, serves as the key resource for planners and visitors who need assistance in a number of areas: • provides contact names and local information • locates necessary facilities • acts as a convention management advisor • recommends reliable sources for services • supplies information on facilities and amenities • assists with the securing of meeting rooms and hotel room commitments • suggests tour itineraries or other tour planning assistance • and much more

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A bureau can be structured in any of several different manners. There is no “absolute ideal structure” for all cities. Municipal governmental leaders are enabled by state legislation to collect hotel/motel taxes from visitors via lodging properties. They also bear the responsibility of ensuring that these funds are allocated to the agencies or entities in their city that will administer the dollars in such a fashion as to uphold the intent and Texas State Total Direct Tax Receipts by Category 2009 Federal Tax Receipts

State Tax Receipts

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0

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meaning of the legislation. To this end, these leaders and visitor industry stakeholders must determine the best structure for a convention and visitor bureau to “fit” their city and its stakeholders. CVBs come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and personalities. Here in Texas, the makeup of CVBs varies from the makeup on a national level. The State of Texas currently has 168 convention and visitor bureaus, the most of any state in the United States, and approximately 26 percent are independent, 30 percent are part of a city or a city department, and 44 percent are a chamber of commerce or a division of a chamber. No matter what the makeup, size, or personality of a CVB, the majority of them—about 86 percent—receive funding from hotel occupancy tax revenue, which makes CVB’s funding a very clean funding model. The revenue that funds the CVB is generated by those who are spending the

Texas State Visitor Spending by Commodity Purchased 2009 Local Tran. & Gas Food Service Accommodations Retail Sales Arts, Ent. & Rec. Visitor Air Tran. Food Stores 0

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Texas State Total Direct Travel Spending by Category 2009 Destination Spending

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night in a destination, and those same funds are used to bring more visitors to the same destination, while at the same time importing wealth that builds additional “new” tax revenue outside of the hotel occupancy tax. You can’t get a much cleaner spending model than this. About 15 percent of destinations also collect special restaurant taxes, venue taxes, and rent-acar taxes. Tourism spending resulting from a proactive, effective, consistent CVB program of work is a serious economic driver. There are many opinions on how a CVB should be organized. This is Texas, after all, and the spirit of community pride and independence runs strong and deep from the largest cities to the tiniest towns. We all do it our own way. We must be doing something right. Texas is second in the country for visitation.

The CVB as a City Department Within the municipal organizational structure, the CVB is like any other city department except for the way in which it is funded. CVBs receive public funds through the hotel occupancy tax revenues, which means that the CVB has one key difference from many of the other departments—the funding for the CVB does not come out of the general fund. Some of the strengths for structuring the CVB as a part of the city include, but are not limited to: • Overhead costs (such as legal services, accounting services,

and so on) are covered by the city. • Employees share in the city’s insurance and benefit plans. • The CVB is covered under the city’s liability coverage. • There is closer contact and communication with other city departments that may share in responsibilities for conducting business—parks, recreation, museums, police, fire, city manager, and so on. • There is closer contact with elected municipal officials. • Other city employees become ambassadors for the CVB and its efforts to attract and service visitors to their city. The CVB is a high-profile organization in a city, generating positive attention to and about the attractions, events, and activities. Structuring the CVB as a city department can be beneficial to all parties involved. This structure gives the CVB the ability to represent the entire city, where in some cases other structures are only able to represent those who are members. There are opportunities in this arrangement for all other city departments—chamber of commerce, economic development departments, arts organizations, historic organizations, social groups, and many more— to be directly exposed to customer issues and concerns that affect not

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only the local citizens, but also the visiting public. But, as is true of all three CVB styles, there are also variations on the theme. Most CVBs will have some direct operational responsibilities over visitor centers, convention centers, special events, film commissions, sports commissions, the operation of festivals, and much more. In many of the city-managed CVB operations, there is some type of board that is usually appointed by the city council or through the internal election of members of the board. In most cases, this board is an advisory board, and the membership may not be truly representative of the tourism and travel industry in the city. The need for strong leadership, guidance, and influence by an active and involved board is something that all CVBs can use effectively.

The CVB as a Chamber Division It is common for a convention and visitor bureau to be a division of a chamber of commerce in Texas. Cities in Texas levying a hotel tax contract with a chamber of commerce 44 percent of the time to develop and implement the destination marketing program. Convention and visitor bureaus are in the business of economic development, which goes beyond traditional approaches to marketing to include a quality-of-destination focus. CVBs can initiate a quality-destination initiative through a process that involves key community and industry leaders, as well as elected officials. The purpose of a chamber of commerce is to develop and promote the economy and quality of life in an area. A chamber of commerce is a membership-based organization, devoting its time and resources to building a stronger economy. Integrating all facets of a community with its business and industry

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partners enables a broad-based, consensus-driven program. Thus, a CVB can thrive within a chamber. A CVB is in the business of destination marketing. The CVB focuses on one segment of economic development: tourism. Developing the city’s own tourism potential involves key leaders. A CVB can maximize its effectiveness by developing its leadership, maintaining a board of directors to govern the programs of the bureau that includes all stakeholders (traditional and non-traditional), elected officials, and governmental staff. The strengths of a bureau as part of a chamber of commerce: • Unencumbered access to community leaders/elected officials • Diversified expertise in operating committees and volunteers • Longevity of staff/institutional memory

• Sharing of operation/management with other organization • Insurance via chamber organization

non-profit 501(c)(6) organization and may or may not have a membership component. The strengths of an independent bureau may include:

• Multiple levels of reporting/ accounting

• A targeted, daily focus on visitor marketing

• Easier purchasing/response abilities

• More flexibility and clarity in branding based on visitor research, rather than local perceptions

• Consensus communications via stakeholder coordination • Stakeholder developed and approved program of work

• Fewer levels in the approval process for marketing the destination

• Broad-based program/ volunteer support

• Return on investment for local hospitality partners and regeneration of the hotel occupancy tax as priorities

• High employee retention

The CVB as an Independent Organization

• The ability of the board of directors to be composed entirely of members from the local hospitality industry, who are

When a CVB is a separate, independent organization, it typically has the sole purpose of promoting leisure tourism and group business. In this case, the bureau is usually a

(continued on page 54)

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Revitalization and Rebranding: Mesquite’s Real. Texas. Turn-Around. By John Mayner

Marketing Manager, City of Mesquite

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or years, people have discussed the importance of tourism as both an economic development engine and as the critical driver and creator of a destination’s brand. Visitors provide hotel occupancy tax revenue; they also spend while they visit, increasing sales tax revenue for a city. If visitors help provide growth in sales tax collections, investing in things that improve a city’s tourism appeal is smart. To the extent that a city’s sales tax revenue increases from visitors, it offsets the tax burden of residents, and it can provide additional funding for projects that improve residents’ quality of life. However, if you are a mature, inner-ring suburb in a major metropolitan area and you haven’t been able to add any major new tourist attractions, does that mean all is lost? Or could the converse of the above statement be true—that revitalization, reinvention, and rebranding can also lead to new tourism and economic development opportunities? Mesquite’s recent experience delivers a resounding “Yes!” to that question. Over the course of the last eight years, the City of Mesquite has conducted two survey research projects and two separate branding initiatives. During this same period, the city also launched Project Renewal, its longterm revitalization plan. Through a unique partnership with the Mesquite Chamber of Commerce, the Mesquite Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), and the Mesquite Independent School District (ISD), the city has recently begun a new marketing effort to highlight all the positive

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changes occurring through Project Renewal. These efforts are already having a favorable effect on the city’s image, changing the way both residents and non-residents view Mesquite, and they are also helping spur new investment and re-investment opportunities in the city.

Background In November 2003, the City of Mesquite hired Weber Shandwick to develop a brand for the city’s shopping, dining, and entertainment district. That brand development project yielded the moniker of “The Rows of Texas,” marking a fourmile corridor along IH-635 that was home to the city’s restaurant, retail, and rodeo “rows.” With nearly 5,000,000 square feet of retail space, this area needed an identifier people could use in order to distinguish it from other similar areas in the Metroplex. The launch of this mini-branding campaign included the

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creation of a new logo that is now being used throughout the area—in lighting, on monument and street signage, and on highway bridges—to identify that specific area as The Rows of Texas and to create a sense of arrival, identity, and place. In 2005, following the successful branding of The Rows of Texas, the City of Mesquite selected North Star Destination Strategies to develop a new brand and positioning statement to define and position Mesquite in the minds of consumers. In January 2006, the new strategic positioning statement—Mesquite is the real authentic flavor of Texas today—gave rise to a new logo and tagline: Real. Texas. Flavor.® (see below). As the most active advertising arm of the city, the CVB was the first to promote the new brand in a public way. A series of advertising concepts was created, introducing the Real. Texas. Flavor.® logo and using a number of looks touting the “genuine” and “authentic” character of the city. Those ad concepts were used by the CVB for two years, from 2006-2008.

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In late 2005, Mesquite conducted a resident and nonresident survey to gauge perceptions about the city and to better understand what issues and public relations challenges the city faced. During this first research project, Mesquite learned that one-half of non-residents had no impression of the city, and the other half had some negative impressions stemming from stereotypes and misinformation about Mesquite. The results of the survey were a wake-up call for city leaders, who decided the image of Mesquite was an important issue that needed to be addressed directly. While everyone agreed the city’s image needed a make-over, they also agreed that numerous changes needed to occur that both residents and visitors could see and value. Significant and meaningful change would not occur overnight and would require the city’s long-term commitment, patience, and resolve.

Unique Partnership with Mesquite ISD The City of Mesquite and the Mesquite Independent School District (MISD) have a long history of partnering on projects that are mutually beneficial. The partnership began in the 1960s when, in an attempt to provide greenspace and parks within walking distance of most homes, the two entities joined forces to save costs and extend their CityofParkerWaterTankAd_Layout 1 3/21/11 10:35 AM Page 1

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budgets. As a result, the city paid for playgrounds from its Parks and Recreation budget, and MISD paid for the land, maintenance, and upkeep. Prompted by the survey results that identified image issues and areas of misinformation, the school district realized that its long-term health and future success was inextricably linked to the city’s revitalization and rebranding efforts. Once again, the two came together, pooled resources, and worked toward change. The plan included: • Funding a joint marketing initiative; • Hiring a marketing/public relations firm to develop a comprehensive marketing plan; • Creating a marketing manager position, along with a new Marketing and Tourism Division, housed under the City of Mesquite. In order to leverage resources and build consistency in branding and communications, the CVB left the Chamber of Commerce and became an integral part of the new Marketing Division; • Launching two new Web sites, one for the CVB and one solely dedicated to Project Renewal, to pro-actively communicate “good news” about progress being made in improving the quality of life of Mesquite residents; and • G rowing the City’s Real.Texas. Festival. into a signature event that would serve to showcase the city, bring and expose new visitors to Mesquite, and help redefine and enhance visitors’ perception of the city.

Brand Evolution In 2008, partially as a result of its new position within the city’s organizational structure, the CVB developed new creative for its tourism and convention ads that was actually a brand extension and evolution of the original

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campaign. This campaign had a clean and fresh look, and new headlines were created that played off of the Real. Texas.Flavor. ® tagline (see example on page 38). Simultaneously, major projects and reinvestment in both infrastructure and important attractions began as part of Project Renewal. Both the CVB and the Project Renewal Web sites provided outlets for project information and positive stories relating to this revitalization. A strong communications effort was crafted to educate the public about Project Renewal. To leverage and help extend that effort’s reach, an outdoor billboard campaign was developed. Playing on the Real.Texas.Flavor.® tagline, it touted both Mesquite’s quality of life and the completion of major projects. Although some of the billboards focused on elements of the city’s quality of life that are not as germane

to tourists, other creative promoted amenities and attractions that spoke directly to tourists (see above). Project Renewal’s strategic investments are already spurring private investment throughout the area. A major bridge and interchange project at IH-635 and Town East Boulevard provided improved access, traffic flow, and aesthetics to the Town East retail corridor and The Rows of Texas, spawning a number of significant new projects: • A $25-million renovation to Market East Shopping Center, Dallas County’s first power shopping center • The decision to tear down an old Target store and build a new SuperTarget (which is consistently among the chain’s top five stores in sales)

Connections made here. Host a successful meeting. Close an important deal. Create additional opportunities. If you’re looking for a place to get down to business, Garland has what you need to make it happen. With excellent meeting and conference facilities, and a vibrant and diverse manufacturing base, Garland is a great place to make connections that count. Learn more at www.visitgarlandtx.com.

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• Significant improvements by General Growth Properties (GGP) in and around Town East Mall. In the year following the completion of these improvements, the mall had the second-largest increase in sales per square foot (4.4 percent increase in 2009 vs. 2008) of the six GGP malls in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Although that might seem modest, this increase was in the midst of the ongoing recession • Several new restaurants and retail projects Through a public/private partnership, significant investments and renovations were also made to of one of the city’s most prized tourist attractions, the world-famous Mesquite Championship Rodeo, and its home, Resistol Arena. New owners Camelot Sports and Entertainment, LLP, have re-invigorated the rodeo, completing major renovations, adding million-dollar video boards and the new 8-Second Club, and bringing year-round concerts and special events to the arena. In its first two seasons with new owners, this rodeo icon was twice nominated for “Rodeo of the Year,” and it has drawn new visitors to Mesquite to enjoy its unique and high-quality programming. Additionally, the city’s Real.Texas.Festival. (www.real texasfestival.com), held each April, continues the brand extension, and its unique focus brings a diverse group of

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tourists to Mesquite. Playing off the city’s name and tagline, the festival includes a large barbecue competition, performances of the Mesquite Championship Rodeo, and an incredible concert series that focuses on Texas music acts, including rock, country, and Tejano artists. In just four short years, this two-day event has now grown to attract more than 25,000 people. Likewise, MISD’s focus on continual improvement during this same period has resulted in tremendous gains in academic progress and impressive recognition from outside sources. Even though the district falls well below the state average in the amount of state funding it receives, it earned Recognized District status from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) in 2010; 93 percent of MISD schools are currently rated either Exemplary or Recognized. When the state comptroller recently released the results of the Financial Allocation Study for Texas (FAST), which identifies school districts and campuses that combine high academic achievement and cost-effective operations, MISD was one of only 32 public school districts to earn the highest rating of five stars. The prestigious Broad Foundation identified MISD among the top 30 school districts in the nation for performing better than their state average with Hispanic and low-income students on state assessments. And for the last two years, MISD has been a finalist for the HEB Excellence in Education Award, the largest monetary recognition program for educators in Texas and one of the largest in the nation. By working together, focusing rebranding efforts across the board and utilizing creative ways to partner with other community organizations, the City of Mesquite is finding new ways to revitalize and re-invent itself, and to market these changes to its residents and the rest of the world. As the city’s Project Renewal program continues, this partnership becomes even more important as it provides an excellent way to help extend the tourism budget and appeal of the city, while also attracting other audiences who might one day become Mesquite residents. ★

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Collaboration..... Leads to Sweet Success By Dean E. Conwell

CDME, Executive Director, Beaumont Convention and Visitors Bureau

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t has been nearly 50 pleasurable years since I began my career in the Texas tourism industry. I remember my first job, although I did not get paid. I was five years old, strolling hand and hand with Farah Fawcett on North Beach in Corpus Christi. We were doing a photo shoot for the cover of Texas Tropical Coast magazine. While she was not wearing her famous red swimsuit, I still enjoyed my introduction to Texas hospitality.

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The foundation of Texas tourism truly developed in the decade of the 1960s, and I was a child able to spend time with a handful of the visionaries who put Texas tourism on the map. This was the time that Six Flags Over Texas opened, HemisFair in San Antonio began, and the movie The Alamo with John Wayne was filmed out in Brackettville. In that day, many of the tourism leaders’ brainstorming sessions took place after 6:00 p.m., after their normal

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business day was over. These meetings began with an extended social hour, followed by a two-hour dinner beginning around 9:00 p.m. Although these leaders were from different parts of the state and worked for different tourism entities, their united and agreed-upon goal was to work hand in hand to, first, “Entice the visitors to come to Texas.” This spirit of cooperation, of understanding the big picture, has carried over for five decades, and I am positive it will continue. It’s obvious that Texas cities compete for the same convention or leisure dollars, but we do it in a fair, equitable manner. We put the client first and make sure each convention or event is the right fit for our destination. The worldwide tourism industry has truly taken its hits over the last few years. We have dealt with everything from SARS to Mad Cow Disease, volcanoes, September 11th, and, specifically here in Texas, hurricanes. It was obvious the Gulf Coast was not prepared for multiple hurricanes, but shortly after Hurricane Katrina, TACVB (The Texas Association of Convention and Visitor Bureaus) was able to post emergency information on its Web site that would allow evacuees to finding lodging throughout the state. This information was updated hourly so that weary

travelers were able to find safe haven without driving from hotel to hotel. Most all convention and visitor bureau executive directors also had the cell phone number of their counterparts across the state, and some were even offered temporary work space if their offices were closed due to storm damage. There were hundreds of conventions up and down the coast that were displaced because of facility damage. CVBs stepped in and were eager to offer meeting space to make sure these conventions did take place and that the affected city would be back on the meeting planners’ scheduled rotation in the near future.

Collaborative Efforts When a CVB director is dealing with a stalemate concerning city politics, or the tourism director has a question about a specific motorcoach operator, we do not immediately go to the Internet to find what we need. Tourism is a people business, so we usually call our counterparts in other Texas cities—because we all fight the same battles, just in a different geographic location. Maybe we even take this sharing too far! Each summer at the TACVB annual conference, cities compete by entering a contest with categories such as sports marketing, tourism

the cajuns call it lagniappe. you’ll call it fun. think BBQ & Boiled crawfish, Zydeco & Blues, two-stepping & rodeos. and if you’re looking for meeting space and hotels that give you extras, look no further. After an inspiring day of networking and meetings, it’s time to trade in your business attire for boots, jeans and maybe even a cowboy hat. Beaumont has something the Cajun’s call “lagniappe” - the little something extra you just can’t describe. Sure, Beaumont offers all the meeting space, services and professional amenities you would expect from a larger destination. What sets us apart? All the extras that ensure your expectations are exceeded. scan Qr code for new meeting weBsite

Meetings With A LittLe soMething extrA! Freddie Willard, CVB Director of Sales 1-866-822-0245 • www.beaumontcvb.com/meetings

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promotion, Web site, convention promotion, cooperative marketing, online marketing, local awareness, and so on. The various entries are provided to everyone who attends so that instead of having to recreate the wheel, it’s okay to TML POLiabilityConf2011_Layout 1 4/19/11 10:27 AM Page 1 steal...from your friends.

Regional promotions and partnerships are a large part of marketing a state as big as Texas. Since we have so many diverse regions and are spread out geographically, cities join together to create original and unique messages for multiple marketplaces. Working together expands the

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product appeal for visitors and minimizes the resource investment of staff and dollars for each city by dividing the project cost between partners. These cooperative marketing projects can be initiated for both convention and meeting business, as well as group and leisure travelers. A prime example of this type of collaboration was the recent Super Bowl played here in Texas. I contacted Diana Pfaff, director of communications at the Irving CVB. She told me, “From the initial bid, to the Green Bay Packers hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, Super Bowl XLV would not have occurred here in Texas without a cooperative effort among municipalities. Twelve cities in the North Texas region banded together and helped form the North Texas Super Bowl XLV Host Committee. For the first time, the area was awarded and hosted the world’s most-watched sporting event. But it took all of us and our hotels, restaurants, venues, attractions, and resources to make it happen.” On the convention and meeting side of the industry, there is also strength in numbers. Numerous mid-size Texas cities have banded together to form “Team Texas.” Instead of exhibiting at incredibly expensive trade shows on their own, cities will choose conventions that are the right fit for their towns and share the cost of the booth among multiple

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partners. Then, at the end of the event, all business leads that were collected at the event are shared among the participating cities. One of the finest leisure, grass roots co-ops was formed by nine North Texas cities, including: Denton, Fort Worth, Weatherford, Gainesville, and a few others. It was the brainchild of Kim Phillips, vice president of the Denton CVB. Kim told me, “We founded the North Texas Horse Country Driving Tour six years ago because in Denton County alone, there are over 300 horse farms, with world champions in many different disciplines. Scores of tour groups and local citizens have made Horse Country Denton’s number-one draw.” The number of co-ops on the leisure side is incredible, from the Texas Forest Trails to the Dallas-Fort Worth Area Tourism Council…from The Chisolm Trail to the Beaches of Texas Coalition, which stretches from Beaumont-Port Arthur to South Padre Island.

Social Media Connections One of the more recent ways CVBs are coming together is by way of quick chats, information exchanges, and discussions on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Linked In. According to Stephanie Molina, marketing and communications director at the Beaumont CVB, “We break down everything from what vendors different CVS used for administering contests on Facebook or Twitter, to best practices with QR Codes, to just using forums as a sounding board for ideas. Just like attending a shirt-sleeve session at a conference, these informal groups allow for easy, real-time exchanges.” Molina continues, “Bi-monthly on Twitter, a group of us participate in a Twitter Chat called #Tourismchat. Topics are pre-selected, and questions are posted to the group. Participants can listen by following the chat’s hashtag and contribute to the discussion when they choose. Not only has the forum helped to keep us up to speed on topics that we are all dealing with, but I now have a short list of people I know in the industry who I can quickly send a question to and get a quick answer...even if they are miles away.” Relationships in tourism have always played a key role in marketing a destination, and it’s wonderful to know you have trusted resources at your fingertips when you have questions. Especially when tourism in the State of Texas is a billion-dollar business. ★

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TOURISM:

There’s an App for That! By Carla Pendergraft

CMP, Director of Sales and Internet Development, Waco Convention and Visitors Bureau

“[Facebook Pages] empower fans to be viral ambassadors for your city. When fans post on your city’s page, the post appears on their own walls as well, which brings your message out to all of their friends.” —Sarah Page, Colorado River Trail/Social Media Speaker

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n recent years, there has been an explosion of new applications and technologies that travelers are beginning to use in greater numbers as they plan their trips. Convention and visitor bureaus (CVBs) must stay abreast of these new technologies in order to attract more visitors to their destinations. This takes time, budget monies, and additional training. Travelers have so many options these days that cities are trying to get any edge they can through the use of these new technologies. Let’s review some of the new technologies and how they are being used by travelers and CVBs.

Location-Based Services Location-based services are gaining in popularity. Gowalla (www.gowalla.com) is a free social media site that encourages people to register, become “friends” with others, and explore new places. People who use Gowalla can share their trip itineraries, photos, and tips with their friends. Users “check in” when they visit a new place and pick up rewards in the form of badges. It’s similar to a passport with stamps in it that you can share with others to inspire them to take similar trips. Other location-based social media sites include Facebook Places and Foursquare (www.foursquare.com), which differ slightly from Gowalla. Foursquare, for example, encourages its members to check in often at the same location to earn rewards, from free pizzas to discounted fountain drinks.

Mobile Web Sites More and more CVBs are creating mobile sites that are suited for viewing on phones. They make perfect sense for travelers, because travelers are, by definition, mobile. Mobile Web sites are sites that are optimized to look good on any phone with a browser, not just smartphones. They will, at a minimum, list hotels, restaurants, and attractions in the town. For example, Palm Springs has a mobile optimized Web site for lodging, restaurants, and shopping. Mobile Web sites make it easier for travelers to find a restaurant tucked away off the square, or a charming bed and breakfast, rather than just what is located on the highway and easy to find.

Mobile Applications (“apps”) Mobile applications, or apps, are slightly different from mobile Web sites. Mobile apps are custom-built programs that must be downloaded onto the smartphone. A different version must be created for each brand of smartphone

(BlackBerry, iPhone, and Android). They are generally more feature-rich than simple mobile Web sites. Examples include the Greater Boston CVB, which has a mobile app that allows visitors to search an events calendar, explore area attractions, and download travel deals. Palm Springs also has mobile apps available for the three major smartphone brands. Both mobile sites and mobile apps can be expensive. At the low end, a mobile site might cost $2,000 and range up to $15,000. A mobile app is a custom programming project and can cost even more, depending on functionality. However, within just a short time, it will no longer be optional to have a mobile site, if the city wants to remain competitive.

Facebook The number of Facebook users continues to climb and is nearing the 600-million mark. Soon, virtually anyone with a computer will be a Facebook user, and each user has an average of 130 friends, who see each other’s posts. It is crucial for CVBs to have a Facebook Page for the destination, and to encourage interaction with the page through contests, promotions, and couponing. Some municipal social media policies restrict employee use of social media. In the case of your CVB, employees need freedom to use social media to promote the destination. They need access to these sites while at work. CVBs seem to be embracing Facebook Pages. The Irving CVB has more than 2,800 people who “like,” or follow, its page updates. El Paso, Waco, Kerrville, Odessa, Wichita Falls, Longview, Plano, Waxahatchie, and many other Texas CVBs maintain a Page on Facebook. Facebook Pages, like most forms of social media, are most useful when fans interact with the page in the form of comments, uploaded photos, and videos. Sarah Page, a frequent speaker on social media for the travel industry,

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says, “[Facebook Pages] empower fans to be viral ambassadors for your city. When fans post on your city’s page, the post appears on their own walls as well, which brings your message out to all of their friends.”

More cities should consider the idea of using these QR codes in advertisements or in novel ways, as the City of Manor did. They are definitely gaining ground as a useful communication tool.

Quick Response (QR) Codes

Smartphones for CVB Staff

Quick response codes, or QR Codes, are just starting to come into their own. These are square boxes with black and white patterns that, when scanned with a smartphone, can bring the visitor to a special Web page with more information, or a video, or even an e-mail address. The Center for Digital Excellence recently honored the City of Manor for using these QR codes on signs placed at various locations around the city, including historical sites. When scanned, the smartphone automatically loads a Web page with more information about the site. Dustin Haisler, the city’s chief information officer, wrote a white paper available on the city’s Web site at http://cityofmanor.org/comwhitepaper.pdf.

All the applications discussed in this article can be accessed using smartphones. The advantage of using a smartphone for CVB business is that the CVB can stay on top of all these apps and post more frequently and more authentically. This will enhance the timeliness and value of the CVB’s social media presence. Currently, the top smartphones are iPhone, BlackBerry, and Android-based phones.

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Twitter Even the younger generation sometimes has trouble “getting” Twitter. It is a community that has a distinctive culture and language that most people have read about by now. The people who use Twitter tend to be true devotees. They spend a lot of time on Twitter, they ask questions about destinations, and they expect an answer instantaneously. They also talk about what they experience, what they like

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and dislike, very openly. Just as on Facebook, a member of Twitter can have a very large following and therefore, influence for either bad or good. So what’s the angle for a CVB? It’s wise for a CVB to follow postings about its destination on Twitter and address issues that arise. Many CVBs have created Twitter accounts where they talk about their destinations and their special events, new exhibits, and restaurant or hotel openings. Some have developed very large followings. For example, the Irving CVB has more than 1,100 followers; Dallas CVB, more than 900; and Laredo, more than 700.

Blogs A few Texas CVBs maintain blogs, using them to post articles about artist exhibitions, conventions booked, information about local features, new restaurants, and other things of interest to visitors. The McAllen CVB maintains such a blog at http://blog.mcallencvb.com. The Beaumont CVB does so as well, at http://www.beaumontcvb.com/ blog, along with other CVBs. The advantage of keeping a blog is that the posts can be longer and more explanatory than other forms of social media, giving the writer room to expound and cover a topic in more detail. Some cities are leery of blogs, fearing the comments may get out of hand. Yet blogs are an excellent way to disseminate information to potential visitors, and most cities have not had issues with wayward posts.

Texas Travel Industry Association and Texas Association of Convention and Visitor Bureaus. Webinars and online training are also available. Round Rock writer Sheila Scarborough and Oklahoma-based entrepreneur Becky McCray set up a membership-based site at www.tourismcurrents.com with advanced Webinars dedicated to social media training specifically for the tourism, hospitality, and economic development industries.

How CVBs Can Get the Most Out of Social Media To get the most out of social media, CVBs require staff time, advanced training, additional budget monies, freedom from restrictions on access to these sites, and perhaps most importantly, the freedom to experiment and make mistakes. Many of the sites discussed in this article did not even exist two years ago, and the ones that have been around for awhile, such as Facebook, have gone through extensive revisions, requiring relearning. However, the rewards are great. Social media can be used to attract additional visitors to the destination, answer their questions in advance, and enhance the visitor’s experience. To stay competitive, CVBs need to be active in the social media arena, invest in training, and be willing to take the time to listen and respond to the online conversations and questions about Texas destinations. ★

Geocaching Geocaching is starting to catch on in the tourism industry. It is akin to treasure hunting in that it involves looking for hidden objects in parks and other places using GPS coordinates. There are also apps for smartphones that aid in the geocache quest. Some CVBs hide objects in visitor attractions to encourage people to tour the area’s attractions.

Social Media Training In the early days of social media, training seminars concentrated on teaching people merely how to set up accounts correctly. Since then, every type of social media has evolved to require a more advanced approach, customized to the requirements of the industry. What is appropriate for a corporate Facebook Page, for example, is not at all what is needed for a destination Facebook Page. Advanced training in social media is available from many sources. There are several national conferences useful for those needing more training in social media for the tourism industry and for those in government. These include Social Media Strategies for Travel, Social Media for Government, South by Southwest Interactive, the Symposium on Social Media in Tourism (SoMeT), the tourism track at BlogWorld and New Media Expo, and at the regular conferences of the

The doctor is definitely in at Waco’s Dr Pepper Museum, where you can enjoy an ice-cold, hand-pulled Dr Pepper float. Put on your boots and scoot on over to the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, where you can see the story of the legendary Rangers come to life. And be sure to make time for the Waco Mammoth Site and learn about the natural history of Central Texas at the Mayborn Museum Complex. To discover more of Waco’s unexpected treasures visit www.wacocvb.com.

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In the grand scheme of things, city hotel occupancy taxes account for just a small amount of city revenue. Property taxes and sales taxes are far more important to most cities. Why does it seem, then, that hotel taxes generate so much confusion and controversy?

By Bennett Sandlin TML Executive Director

The Hotel Tax “Two-Step”

The answer is this: Hotel taxes, unlike most other taxes, are levied on a specific category of businesses—hotels. As a result, these businesses tend to pay close attention to how cities expend these funds. Spend city sales taxes in a controversial way, and no particular category of business feels singled out enough to raise a fuss. Perceived misuses of hotel taxes, on the other hand, are a different story. Fortunately, it’s very easy for a city official to remember how to legally spend hotel taxes. A city simply needs to remind itself to always follow the “two-part test.” The key element of a two-part test is—surprise—that it has two parts! Cities frequently remember to meet one element of the test, but then forget the other part entirely. This article will succinctly describe the two-part test, and then describe some common situations to which we can apply the test.

Part 1: Heads in Beds The first element of the two-part test is this: Every expenditure of hotel taxes must put “heads in beds.” What this means is that every funded project must attract overnight tourists to the city’s hotels and motels, thus promoting the city’s hotel industry.

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TEXAS For example, how about a weekend-long arts and crafts show? There’s a very good chance that outof-town guests might come to visit such an event, so expenditure of hotel tax money on that event would likely qualify. On the other hand, how about a quilting bee at a local nursing home? While a worthy cause, the quilting bee is unlikely to attract overnight tourists and, therefore, probably wouldn’t qualify to receive hotel tax funds.

Part 2: The Seven Categories Once a project has cleared the first part of the test, it’s time for—you guessed it—the second part of the test. Here it is: Every expenditure of hotel taxes must also fit into one of seven statutorily authorized categories. These are the seven categories: (1) convention and visitor centers; (2) convention registration; (3) advertising the city; (4) promotion of the arts;

(5) historical restoration and preservation; (6) sporting events in a county under one million in population; and (7) tourist transportation systems. Thus, even if an event puts heads in beds, it cannot receive hotel tax money unless it also fits into one of the seven categories. For instance, what about a livestock auction that will attract attendees from surrounding counties? While that event is likely to attract overnight tourists, it doesn’t fit neatly into one of the seven categories. Therefore, it’s likely not a valid recipient of hotel tax money. It’s not enough to meet one of the two prongs of the two-part test. A city must meet both! The following are some real-life examples that have been the focus of inquiries received by the TML Legal Department.

Fireworks, Anyone? The prototype hotel tax controversy is an event like a fireworks show or a parade. Cities frequently ask if they can fund a fireworks show with hotel tax money. Let’s subject a fireworks show to the two-part test. Does a fireworks show put heads in beds? The answer is “probably not,” unless it is a truly spectacular event. But let’s give it the benefit of the doubt. Suppose the town of Pyrotechnic, Texas, truly does put on a fireworks extravaganza that attracts tourists from around the state. So far, so good.

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But what about the second part of the test—the seven categories? Do fireworks shows fit neatly into any of the seven? Not really. Some may argue that such shows “advertise” the city, but this is likely not what that category means. Advertising the city literally means some sort of print or other media that explicitly promote the city. Otherwise, a city could simply say that any popular event “advertises” the city that holds it. Direct funding of fireworks displays and the like are, usually, not a very good fit.

Sign of the Times? Another frequent question concerns highway signs promoting the city. May a city fund a billboard touting the city’s attractions, restaurants, and hotels? Let’s put it to the two-part test. Heads in beds? Well, why not? If a billboard encourages motorists to stop in town, those motorists might stay the night, whereas without the sign they would have driven on to the next city. This is exactly what the statute intends. The seven categories? How about advertising? A billboard literally advertises the city it refers to. Conclusion—travel signs are a perfect fit for hotel occupancy tax expenditures.

Chambers of Commerce? Cities frequently wonder if they can fund the local chamber of commerce using hotel tax money. Do chambers put heads in beds? Maybe, maybe not. Chambers of commerce are typically charged with promoting economic development, not tourism. Even assuming a chamber does promote tourism, though, how about the seven categories? Funding a chamber doesn’t, in itself, fall into any of the seven categories. Fortunately, there is an easy solution. The laws governing hotel tax expenditures permit the city to delegate expenditure of hotel tax money to another entity, typically a chamber

or convention and visitor bureau. As long as the chamber spends the money on projects that otherwise meet the two-part test mentioned above, it’s fine to delegate some funds to them. There must be a written contract laying out the duties of the chamber, though. Also, the chamber must keep the hotel funds in an account separate from its general operating fund.

Arts Organizations City arts organizations are a common trouble area. It seems that every arts council in the state knows that promotion of the arts is one of the seven categories on which city hotel taxes may be expended. Cities know this because these arts groups frequently come asking for the money. The thing to remember about arts groups is this: direct funding of the organization’s operations does nothing in and of itself to put “heads in beds.” Put another way, funding the operating budget of an arts council meets the second part of the test (promotion of the arts) but not necessarily the first. The solution? The city should encourage the group to seek funding only for its festivals and shows that do, in fact, attract tourists to the city. By limiting the expenditure to such events, the city meets both parts of the test.

What Else? There are numerous other technical details about how to legally expend hotel tax funds. In truth, by simply learning and remembering the twopart test, city officials are 99 percent of the way toward full compliance with hotel tax laws. City officials with questions about the hotel occupancy tax should call the TML Legal Department at 512-231-7400. ★

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Convention and Visitor Bureau Structures: What Best Fits Your City’s Personality? (continued from page 35) direct stakeholders and thereby highly motivated regarding the success of the CVB and the tourism industry in the city • The freedom to set salaries, without the parameters set within a parent organization, to attract employees with CVB experience or specific educational background and retain them • The possibility of working closely with the city government, the county government, the chamber of commerce, the economic development agency, and other city partners, since the CVB is not directly aligned with any one entity KilleenApr.pdf 1 3/11/11 12:42

What is “right” for your city? There is not a single best answer, because each city is different. However, size is a critical component. It is difficult to have an independent organization when the budget is very small, such as under $200,000. Another difference is the question of whether tourism and conventions are a high priority in a particular city. Do you really know the total economic impact that tourism brings to your city? Not just direct spending, but jobs, job skill development, quality-of-life amenities via private investment, school taxes, property taxes, sales tax, and so on… The reality is that there are many variations of structure even within the three common arrangements found in Texas. In some cases, the bureau may PM be under the chamber of commerce

but have a separate policy board. And at least one city in Texas has moved toward a form of privatization within a city government structure. Over the next 10-15 years, we will probably see more and more hybrids of the three CVB structures discussed in this article. Funding mechanisms for CVBs need to evolve, and for this to happen, we will also need to evolve the structures of the CVBs. In the final analysis, does the selected structure produce results for the city? In the convention and visitor field, there is no one set structure that will work best for all cities. Each situation must be evaluated and the best possible organizational structure developed and run consistently to remain a positive wealth generator for your destination. ★

The

Mun

an

Te

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2011 TML MUNICIPAL EXCELLENCE AWARDS—APPLICATION DEADLINE IS JUNE 3 The

2011 Texas

Municipal

League

The competition is divided into two population

Municipal Excellence Awards recognize

The winners will be featured in the

categories to allow cities to compete with

and encourage the achievements of

other cities of comparable size. The population

Texas cities in meeting the challenge of

December 2011 issue of Texas Town & City magazine. In addition, the winners will be

categories are: cities less than 25,000

municipal government. Innovative problem-

recognized at the TML Annual Conference

population and cities over 25,000.

to be held October 11-14, 2011, in

solving, excellence in management, increasing citizen participation, and reaching

Houston. Within each of the two population categories,

toward higher service levels are all daily

there are five subject categories: management

occurrences in Texas cities, and they deserve

To obtain additional information on the

innovations, communication programs,

recognition.

TML Municipal Excellence Awards Program,

city spirit, public safety, and public works.

please call the TML office at 512-231-7400, or visit www.tml.org/municipal_award.asp.

This awards program seeks out the best of these programs for public recognition. It is through the recogniition of the best of the best that all Texas cities share and learn from these achievements.

The awards program is open to all Texas Municipal League member cities. Each city can submit one award application in each subject category, for a total of five applications. The award application deadline is Friday, June 3, 2011. APRIL 2011

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Legal Q & A (continued from page 9) In addition, cities may or may not charge their MOUs franchise fees for the use of the city’s rights-of-way. Thus, the transfer is often analogous to a franchise payment that the city would receive from an IOU that uses the city’s rights-of-way. In any case, it is currently up to each city’s council to decide how to handle transfers. Another way to look at transfers is that they are very similar to the return on investment that IOUs give back to their shareholders. But in the case of an MOU, the “shareholders” are the taxpayers of the city. Transferred revenue is used to pay for services (police, fire, EMS, streets, and so on) that are used by the customers of the MOU. The transferred revenue is used to keep property tax rates low, which benefits the taxpayers served by the MOU.

Q A

What are electric franchise fees? Electric franchise fees are fees paid by IOUs or coops (and in some cases, MOUs that provide service in other cities)

that use a city’s rights-of-way to provide service. Both state law and the Texas Constitution provide that a city may not allow a private entity to use city property for free. Electric deregulation changed the way in which municipal franchise fees are charged and collected. Traditionally, cities and IOUs or coops operated under a franchise agreement that governed the amount the utility paid for use of the city’s rights-ofway, typically stated as a percentage of the utility’s gross receipts for service provided within the city limits. Prior to deregulation, cities and electric utilities were free to enter into franchises that provided for a fee of two percent or greater, and it was on that basis that many cities negotiated for and received franchise fees of three or four percent of gross receipts. Since deregulation was implemented, a city’s electric franchise fee has been based on the number of kilowatt-hours (kwh) that a utility delivered to customers located within the city’s boundaries in 1998. The total franchise fees for the year 1998 are divided by the total kwhs for that year to arrive at a “per kwh rate.” That rate is multiplied by the current kilowatt hours used by all customers within the city to arrive at the franchise fee amount due to the city. (Note: Some coops still pay the fees according to a percentage of gross receipts, and that is allowed by state law.)

Q A

What do critics of electric franchise fees say?

Some argue that franchise fees of any type are a “hidden tax” on utility service. Of course, the municipal position is that the fees are authorized by state law. In fact, the Texas Constitution prohibits a city from giving away anything of value (for example, the use of city property) to a private entity. Thus, the city position is that the fees are nothing more than “rental” payments for the use of city property.

Q A

How are IOU electric rates regulated?

In a city served by an MOU or a coop, the rates are set by the governing bodies of either the city or the coop. In a deregulated market, the practice is much more complex. Cities have a long history of participation in the ratemaking process for electric utilities. Prior to the enactment of the Public Utility Regulatory Act (PURA) in 1975, electric rates were set exclusively at the city level, with appeals going to the courts. Cities were originally granted the authority to regulate electric rates, because most utilities operated within cities. Later, the state began regulating electric rates outside of cities, and ultimately took over appeals from city jurisdiction as well.

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Currently, cities have original jurisdiction over the electric rates of transmission and distribution IOUs within their city limits. The PUC has original jurisdiction over electric rates outside city limits and appellate jurisdiction over the actions of cities. (In addition, some cities have ceded their original jurisdiction inside the city limits to the PUC.) A transmission and distribution utility that is within a city and wishes to increase its rates is now subject to the original jurisdiction of that city. In practice, however, most cases are now appealed, consolidated, and heard and decided by the PUC. The rate-setting process is a complex one. Essentially, a utility submits reams of information to the city relating to investments in infrastructure and operational costs. The goal of the city, and ultimately the PUC on appeal, is to ensure that the proposed rates are fair, just, and reasonable.

Q A

What is a city’s role in setting IOU electric rates?

As a matter of course, cities that seek to participate in the rate-setting process join coalitions. The pooling of resources with a coalition avoids duplication of effort. And when the case ultimately ends up before the PUC, the cities present a unified front and reduce costs. Under state law, the utility seeking the increase pays for the legal and consulting fees of the cities. Those costs can easily reach into the millions of dollars, and they are added to the rate increase to be paid for by customers. For a number of years, many city officials have believed that they are the only thing standing between utility companies and their constituents. That is because the PUC, understaffed and underfunded, does not have the resources to ferret out unnecessary increases in the reams of paperwork provided by the utility as justification. It is a fact that municipal intervention has saved money for customers. In one 2010 case, municipal intervention reduced a transmission and distribution company’s rate increase from $253 million to $130 million. If cities are denied original jurisdiction, or the ability to intervene (and to be reimbursed for that intervention), electric rates would undoubtedly go up. ★

When a rate increase is submitted to a city, the city council in practice usually denies the increase or suspends its implementation. Because the case will eventually wind up at the PUC, those actions give the city time to work with lawyers and consultants to review whether the increase is justified.

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ProCa

The Art of Working Well with People: Relationship Skills for Work and Home

R

elating and working well with others is a key to both happiness and success in all walks of your life. The intent of this article is to provide you with relationship tools that you can immediately use. Please read, internalize, and use:

1. Your success is a combination of your technical, organizational, and people skills. In regard to the latter, you cannot afford to stop learning about communication skills. They are of paramount importance in a world dominated by e-mails, text messages, and so on. Heed the following advice: Arnold Palmer, the great golfer, once said, “When I walk into a room, it’s not about, ‘Here I am.’ It’s about, ‘There you are.’” His point: People like it when you focus your attention on them. Ultimately, your job is to ERN (Engage, Recognize, and Nurture) the Trust™ of those with whom you come into contact. Make it happen at every turn: E is for Engage. When engaging others, first you should listen more than you talk. Second, don’t strive to show how much you know. Third, take your time. R is for Recognize. When recognizing others, bear in mind that people (even the most shy among us) like to talk about themselves. In conversation, encourage people to talk about things like their hobbies, their hometown, and their “hot buttons”—things they are passionate about. N is for Nurture. Relationships/partnerships are never a 50/50 proposition. Always go “the extra mile” in regard to all good relationships…helping others solve problems or creating a good feeling for them. When nurturing others, remember that little things make big differences, be sincere, do it now, and be specific.

2. As you face any situation, you always have three choices—either live with it, lobby (try to change it), or leave it behind (ease on down the road). Living and coping with situations is made easier when you ask yourself this question: “Is this the hill that I am going to die on?” If not,

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By Mark Towers

choose to live with it as is and bear in mind that wisdom is the art of knowing what to overlook. Not letting others live rent free in your head says a lot about you. It denotes that you know how to keep your cool, pick your battles, and preserve harmony. In regard to lobbying, don’t lobby with anyone unless you think you’ve got a shot of bringing about some sort of change/outcome. Develop the relationship with the person first, make it safe to deliver your message, and then prepare yourself to spend more time and energy coaching/working with him/her. As a good manager once told me: “I always approach folks with this these two thoughts in mind: (1) People do things for their reasons and not mine. (2) If we both agree, one of us isn’t necessary. I remind myself that lobbying is not about pointing the finger of blame. It is about finding common ground, being hard on the issue and soft on the person, and creating a new dance—a fresh perspective. When that is created, we can eventually reach a better understanding—perhaps not an agreement, but an understanding.” Leaving the situation behind is the third possibility here. It means making a decision to not expend any more energy in regard to the reality/discussion at hand. You get what you tolerate. If living with the situation is driving you crazy and your lobbying efforts have produced little or no fruit, it may be time to “lay the boundary down” and not “chase your tail” in relation to certain issue(s). A woman once told me that there was a posted list of certain things at work that never were to be discussed— including politics and religion. Due to the volatility of this particular workplace and the nature of the work that had to be done, these boundaries were not seen as negative. They were simply seen as, “That’s the way it is.” Choosing the avenue of leaving it behind may be a wise thing for everyone involved.

3. Don’t complain—ever! A mentor once said, “Don’t complain, because twenty percent of people don’t care about your problems, and the other eighty percent are glad you have them!” We shared a laugh, but I’ll never forget this powerful truth.

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ProCardsMarch2011Rev_Layout 2 4/19/11 9:45 AM Page 1

Dr. William Glasser, a noted author and psychologist, once said the following about organizations. I believe his remarks apply to families, too: The main difference between happy and unhappy people is that happy people mostly evaluate their own behavior and constantly attempt to improve what they do. Unhappy people, on the other hand, mostly evaluate the behavior of others and spend their time criticizing, complaining, and judging in an attempt to coerce them into “improving� what they do. A quality organization, therefore, will consist of many more happy people than unhappy people. Take one hundred percent accountability for your happiness and well-being. This is the attitudinal hallmark of all mentally healthy people.

Do the opposite of what Darren Stevens did on the old TV show, Bewitched. His wife Samantha could twitch her nose and make amazing things happen with her magical, wizardry powers. Darren spent nearly all his energy and time trying to stop her from using this amazing talent. What a nutty guy! All he had to do was encourage her to use this power wisely, and he could have gotten all his needs met. The point of the story? Help enough people get what they want (assist them with unleashing their talents), and you’ll get what you want. Yes, life is about as exhilarating and incredible as we make it—for other people. One final thought: Your reputation and your relationships are the two most important things you own. Keep them front and center in your life, and please remain a positive difference-maker in your sphere of influence. Others will find themselves lucky when they cross your path. ★

4. In the marketplace of human affairs, the ability to help people discover and use their talents is a personal mission worth embracing.

Š Mark “Tenacious� Towers/Speak Out Seminars, LLC Phone: 817-421-4744 E-mail: mark@speakoutseminars.com

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