Tourism group shifts direction

With almost $190,000 dollars in its wallet every year, the Island Count Joint Tourism Board is looking for a coordinator to help it spend that money.

At a meeting April 7 in Coupeville, the board agreed several aspects in its marketing campaign have changed. One of the biggest changes was terminating a contract at the end of 2004 with the Seattle company Big Bang Idea Engineering, which created the county-wide “do nothing here” marketing campaign. Instead, the board decided it would rather seek a local independent contractor in the county to take the board’s tourism marketing activities in a new direction.

The campaign — which is paid for by a 2-percent lodging tax from Island County hotels, motels and bed and breakfast establishments — had a total income of approximately $189,000 in 2004. In 2003 it earned approximately $180,000; approximately $190,000 in 2002; approximately $184,000 in 2001; and approximately $149,000 in 2000. Formed in 2000, the 18-member committee is composed of elected officials from Oak Harbor, Langley, Coupeville, and Island County who direct the campaign.

Mike Shelton — the tourism board’s 2005 chair and an Island County Commissioner — said there are many qualities the board should consider when searching for a contractor, like if the applicant has an understanding of tourism and marketing, Web site design, advertising and writing skills. Big Bang Idea Engineering designed the Web site and executed print advertising for the “do nothing here” campaign, but Shelton said it was time to change the campaign and its organizers.

“I think appropriately that contract has been terminated,” Shelton said.

Priscilla Heistad, a member of the tourism board and the director of the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce, said the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce had assumed most of the responsibilities Big Bang had previously carried as well as maintaining its regular day-to-day workload after the contract with Big Bang was terminated. The chamber receives a $250 payment a month for its services until a permanent replacement is found. She said the extra obligation and duties has made it obvious to her the tourism board needs it’s own coordinator.

“Even my skills might be limited in what we want to accomplish,” she said. “We just need someone a little more dedicated to this position to do a fair job.”

Being Web savvy is an important quality that many of the board’s members agree the new consultant would need. JoAnne Lechner, a board member and an owner of the Eagle’s Nest Inn outside of Langley, said many travelers research and plan their vacations online. She said having Internet visibility is crucial to the board’s tourism goals.

“You need that exposure constantly,” she said.

Shelton was in agreement.

“A large portion of our efforts need to be directed to the Web,” he said.

The board finished the meeting after deciding to start advertising for a tourism marketing coordinator immediately within Island County.

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