City may hire a tourism director

(Editor's note: Because of a page production error, the jump to this story was omitted from the Aug. 3 Herald print edition. It will be published in its entirety in the Aug. 10 edition.)

POULSBO — Downtown businesses and City Council members are discussing the need for a tourism director for Poulsbo, but the port is not on board yet.

No representatives of West Poulsbo businesses or the Port of Poulsbo were at the meeting of the council’s Economic Development Committee, which met three hours before the regular City Council meeting Wednesday.

Last year, Mayor Becky Erickson proposed a need for a tourism and/or marketing director that would work for the city, but the idea fell flat. This year, council members serving on the Economic Development Committee have broached the subject again and are asking for ideas.

Councilman Ed Stern said although Poulsbo hosts many events and festivals, much of the tourism in Kitsap is “locals shuffling around,” without making much economic impact. He said there is a need for a single point of contact to work with the City, the Greater Poulsbo Chamber of Commerce, and Historic Downtown Poulsbo Association, and to bring information to outside organizations.

Erickson again agreed the city needs a marketing coordinator, and said she realized the need for a public relations person after the city’s 3rd of July fireworks were destroyed in a fire in Belfair. The fireworks were replaced by the fireworks show operator.

“During that period of time it became clear to me how much work Viking Fest Corporation does,” she said. “What happens when they decide to stop doing it? I’m a mayor that depends on providing these really remarkable festivals.”

Erickson said that last year, she envisioned using $20,000 of hotel/motel tax funds — matched by the Port of Poulsbo — to hire an events coordinator and marketing director for city events.

Port Commissioner Tony DeCarlo said the last port commission was not on board with using port funds for tourism if the visitors were mainly coming by car.

“The other commissioners thought our advertising dollars were best going out in boating magazines, where boaters would be seeing the information,” DeCarlo said Thursday. He added the new commission would  discuss a tourism partnership at its Thursday meeting.

Sandy Kolbeins, owner of The Loft restaurant and president of HDPA, said promotion is not the city’s role, but one for the Chamber of Commerce.

“We need someone who can be fluid, reactive,” he said, not needing to respond to multiple city committees. Jan Harrison, director of business development for the Poulsbo Chamber of Commerce, said event planning and tourism promotion are two different things, and jobs for two different people.

The committee also needs to decide how to pay for a tourism director. In 2012, the city budgeted $80,000 for tourism and marketing through hotel/motel taxes. The taxes are collected through two 2 percent levies.

Businesses and organizations apply for the funds like a grant request, city Finance Director Deb Booher said. The majority of the funds go to a coalition of businesses, founded two years ago, which determines how to use the funds. The coalition received $39,000 this year, and consists of the HDPA (which acts as the funds’ facilitator), Poulsbo Historical Society, Viking Fest Corporation, 3rd of July, Kitsap Audubon, Marine Science Society, Poulsbo Farmers Market, and the Kitsap Peninsula Visitors and Convention Bureau. Some of those organizations also applied for and received separate funding for their individual events. The city keeps a small portion of the funding to pay for police overtime and clean-up.

After discussing what other cities do for local promotion — Gig Harbor uses their hotel/motel tax fund in-house for marketing, while Leavenworth’s Chamber of Commerce takes care of tourism — the committee and participants agreed a tourism director was worth pursuing in some capacity.

The Economic Development Committee again discuss the tourism director position at its Sept. 26 meeting, 3:30 p.m., in City Hall.


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