PACT efforts worth their weight in gold
Many of us whose live-lihoods depend on tourism are shocked by the City of Prescott's proposal to extend the Prescott Area Coalition For Tourism's program by one year.
The city said it didn't extend the option another 12 months through June of 2006 as has been customary, because it then would be able to go out for a request for proposal (RFP) sooner rather than later.
On the surface this may seem like good business practice but in this case it is not.
As the owner of a Prescott hotel, I have a vested interest in effective tourism promotion.
By all measures the PACT program has been a huge success:
• Editorial coverage of Prescott's events, attractions and itineraries has been extensive – doubling to well more than $1 million in ad equivalency this past year.
• The city has also benefited, since both lodging taxes and sales taxes have gone up as a result of increased tourism.
• Lodging tax collections have increased on average more than $1 million a year since PACT has managed the promotional program. This year is up around 7 percent – well ahead of nearly all other destinations in the state and more than the national average. Tourists, not residents, pay the lodging taxes.
• The grants received from the state Office of Tourism have consistently been the highest – this year $120,000, which is the maximum regional grant available. With leftover funds, PACT has received nearly $135,000 from the state last year. If a non-regional organization were to replace PACT, the maximum amount of grant available would be only $20,000. It would cost the city the good will of our regional partners as well as leaving at least $100,000 on the table from the state that currently comes to PACT to promote this region.
• The Prescott Area Lodging Association has shown its belief in PACT's effectiveness by voting unanimously to seek a 1 percent increase in the tax collected from tourists as long as the increased amount goes to tourism promotion.
• PACT won recognition as the most effective tourism program in the state when it received the Governor's Award.
• Our marketing partner, Schepman & Associates, has a proven track record of effectively promoting our area and is highly respected here in Arizona as well as nationally. The Society of American Travel Writers recently invited Susan Schepman to join this very elite group. Her relationships with journalists, people at the office of tourism and political leaders here in the state would be impossible in my estimation to duplicate. She has donated untold hours to PACT's program beyond her scope of work.
• PACT's program has built momentum and provides the continuity that has been lacking in the past.
• To start over would be a travesty. Although I am confident PACT would prevail in the RFP process, it will be immensely distracting. My deep concern would be that another group or organization will come in with a low bid, promise the world and then not perform.
We will all suffer the result.
• PACT is a true regional coalition. It started because other groups and organizations tried unsuccessfully to advance tourism. Other organizations that may respond to an RFP may have other motives. Their members may not depend on tourism as ours do for their livelihood.
My business and the businesses of others in the community are definitely benefiting from PACT's program. Tourism is vital to our economy and should not be experimented with when we have the most successful program in the state.
The bottom line is: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
Kathleen A. Langford is owner of Hotel Vendome in Prescott and chairmwoman of the Prescott Coalition for Tourism and president of the Prescott Area Lodging Association.