OBT: ABRAMS PROVIDED FALSE ROOM NIGHT NUMBERS AFTER $17.5K PAYOUT; CITY MUST REPAY CTO
By Gail Marvel
MONTROSE On April 19 the Tourism Retail Advisory Committee (TRAC) held their quarterly meeting. Committee members present were: CJ Brafford, Scott Beyer, Debbie Blanchard, Dave Bowman, Fletcher Flower, Ashley Pietak, Scott Voorhis, Rick Warner and Paul Zaenger.
Others present were: Office of Business and Tourism (OBT) Director Rob Joseph, OBT Operations Manager David Spear, Mayor Judy Ann Files, city councilmen Roy Anderson and Dave Bowman and the media.
Co-Chair Dave Bowman announced concerts will be held every two weeks throughout the summer.
Paul Zaenger announced first quarter visitor attendance for the Black Canyon National Park is up 42 percent for the winter. Visitors in 2016 were up 14 percent, with April showing a trend.
Colorado Flights Alliance (CFA) Economic Impact Study Update - A study will be conducted in August. Speaking from a councilman perspective Anderson said, "I think it will be really valuable.
If we [city] give X dollars to the airport what is the economic impact?"
Note of explanation: The OBT contracted with Abrams Strategic Group (Josh Freed and Dennis Lankes) to produce and then manage software for an Advanced Reservation System which was intended to track OBT's efforts in filling hotel rooms.
Pietak said, "The winter airline program did not work. I had four reservations and they all cancelled.
Josh didn't reach out to me until February and by March the snow was all gone."
When asked about the reservation and CFA funds Joseph said, "I don't want to put our partners in an uncomfortable position." Councilman Bowman said, "We [city council] heard it was extremely successful."
Joseph explained that originally there was $75,000 seed money; $50,000 from the city and a $25,000 grant from the Colorado Tourism Office (CTO). "The program didn't get off the ground until late.
We had committed to having 100 room nights and were told that we had 74. It turned out that that number was not substantiated.
We ended up with a big goose egg and a lot of promises."
Last week Joseph went to Denver and met with the state tourism office, "We will have to return $16,250 to CTO and pay a little bit of a penalty...we won't be able to apply for any grants in the 2017-2018 season. I can't share with you my disappointment."
Beyer cut to the chase, "You keep saying partner, who is the partner?"Joseph acknowledged they were working with Abrams and that the information provided to OBT by Abrams was not factual. Joseph said, "We've terminated everything we were doing with them and are looking to go to a different company." Bowman said, "This is the first I've heard about it."
Abrams Strategic Group was paid $17,500 and both tourism organizations will split the loss, leaving the Montrose OBT out $8,750. However, Joseph feels the software created specifically for OBT will be beneficial in the future and he will meet with Abrams next week to gain possession of the software that is owned by the city.
Ride the Rockies Update:
The Ride the Rockies concert will be held downtown, rather than in Cerise Park. Bowman said, "We are the only stop where there will be a downtown party on concrete rather than grass!"
TRAC Member Elections:
Outgoing committee members Mayor Judy Ann Files and Rick Warner were recognized with a token of appreciation. All other members were re-appointed, leaving one open seat on the committee.
Discussion ensued about many community boards and committees struggling to find members.
New Business and General Discussion:
Retail Sales Enhancement Fund (RSE) is a revenue source for OBT. The role and expectations of the RSE fund will be impacted once city council makes a decision on the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and the Main Street Program.
Blanchard, a DDA board member, noted the angst that was caused when the city manager attempted to dissolve the DDA. "The way in which it was done was inappropriate.
It put us back a good two months. We're sorry we didn't go ahead and hire an executive director.
It was a little bit of a power grab and it deflated the board."
Bowman said, "The DDA would like to get rid of the Main Street Program. Bill [city manager] wants to do more with downtown, but the DDA wants to keep it."
Blanchard said, "I don't want the politics."
Discussion took a walk down memory lane as the group went back to the inception of the RSE funds, the intent of the fund, the different organizations managing the funds (MAMA) and today's misconceptions.
How can TRAC address the perception that OBT does not do anything for businesses?
Byers is bothered by the perception and rejected the idea that OBT is responsible to bring in customers, "Businesses are responsible for bringing customers into their own business. There needs to be a change of philosophy and culture."
Discussion included marketing strategies, social media, newsletters and grants for special events. Joseph suggested hiring a part-time (28 hrs.) event coordinator.
However, the committee strongly suggested the part-time position would be set up for failure and that it was a full-time position. Beyer said, "In the city you have a lot of people wearing a lot of different hats.
Eventually your programs will fail."
OBT Fleet Purchase and Budget Approval Process:
See accompanying story: "Backstory and Follow-Up Report on the Office of Business and Tourism (OBT) purchase of a new Subaru."