Langley City Council agrees to pay for chunk of tourism funding

It’s taken a few tries for the Langley Chamber of Commerce to convince the Langley City Council that its $21,000 tourism funding request is worth the dough.

It was partially successfully Feb. 5 when the council approved a $10,500 request to beef up funding around visits by Clipper Vacations scheduled for later this year, as well as a $6,000 request for photography and videography improvements.

A newly formed ad hoc tourism committee will decide on the remaining $4,500.

The committee has only three members so far — City Councilman Bruce Allen, City Councilwoman Dominique Emerson and Clerk/Treasurer Debbie Mahler — while the city will advertise for two hotel and merchant/restaurant representatives.

They will be tasked with setting criteria for how tourism funding is allocated.

The chamber, represented by Executive Director Inge Morascini, met resistance from some members of the council early on in the process. It initially asked for about $45,000 to improve visits by Clipper Vacations, ramp up the chamber’s website and improve its media offerings such as photography and videography.

The council determined the chamber didn’t provide enough information, statistics and results from the past to justify the request.

The chamber returned a second time in early January with a slimmer request and more statistics surrounding the Clipper Vacations trips, but the council was still not convinced about the photography and video requests.

Morascini said she understood their hesitation.

“New endeavors are often seen as an ‘add’ to expense,” Morascini wrote in an email. “I can understand the hesitancy to fund projects that do not have a proven track record or that may be outside of “the way it was always done. Much of what is funded out of the tourist fund is events that have grown organically over years, having come out of disparate community efforts.”

At the Feb. 5 meeting, Morascini explained the chamber wanted to take a different approach to its communications in a more planned, overarching way.

“Assets, such as photography and videography, as well as a branded voice (the way we talk to people), allow us to speak to our target market more directly and effectively,” Morascini wrote. “Activities and events, as an outcrop of understanding our market, will be more successful, provide higher levels of revenue for both the merchant community and the city.”

The council was much easily convinced about the Clipper Vacations.

The Victoria Clipper, coming from Seattle, made a dozen stops in Langley over five weekends in the spring of 2017. It brought over 2,000 people and was a welcomed sight for Langley businesses.

It was so successful that a new package, “Christmas by the Sea,” was developed for the holiday 2017 season during the first four weekends of December. Plans are in the works for the holiday 2018 season with eight trips.

It will also return in the spring with 13 visits, coinciding with whale watching tours, and is expected to bring 2,600 guests.

“We have, in very short order, developed a very robust relationship with the Victoria Clipper,” Moracini said.

The new funding will duplicate the marketing strategy the chamber used during previous trips, including a holiday gift guide with a city walking map, restaurant guide, lodging information, gift suggestions and general information about Langley.

Also included is a survey to gauge what the visitors thought of Langley, what can be improved, where visitors are from and if it was their first time to Langley.

Morascini believes there is untapped potential in terms of how Langley can market itself to tourists.

“The immediate success of the Clipper’s ‘Holiday by the Sea’ program is a bellwether of the potential of Langley as an easy escape from nearby mainland areas,” Morascini said. “We can see from the number of people that indicated they were from the metro-Seattle area in our survey that we have a huge market to draw from. Programs, such as corporate get-aways, workshops, and events that speak to current interests, have gone largely untapped.”

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