Chamber of Commerce starts program to engage visitors

POULSBO — The Greater Poulsbo Chamber of Commerce wants to do more than just answer the questions of visitors that happen to walk into the visitor center. Executive Director Jan Harrison wants to show visitors that Poulsbo is a destination.

"The ads get them here, this [program] keeps them engaged," she told the City Council at the April 5 meeting.

The council approved a $20,000 grant to the Chamber of Commerce for a visitor engagement program. The council voted to grant the money from the hotel/motel tax fund, above what it has already awarded for tourism promotion, because the hotel/motel fund had more than necessary in reserves.

The 2013 hotel/motel budget is $100,000, and reserves must be either 12 percent of operating funds or two months operating cash, about $15,000. The reserves had built up to $35,000, and the council decided to allow for one more grant application this year.

The Lodging Tax Advisory Committee, made up of the two Poulsbo hotels, the Chamber of Commerce, the Kitsap Peninsula Visitor and Convention Bureau, and Mayor Becky Erickson reviewed the two applications and voted for the Chamber project (with the Chamber abstaining). The council's Community Services Committee concurred.

The other application was to build a replica Viking ship, costing $22,000. Councilman Jim Henry said it was a "fine project," but the hotel/motel tax dollars wasn't the right fund for that project.

Harrison applied for the grant to start a program, which she calls the "Welcome to Poulsbo" program, to engage visitors more once they're here.

First, Harrison is seeking a project manager to help build the program, develop volunteer training and recruit volunteers.

The volunteers will be trained to talk to visitors and ask questions in "a warm and friendly way," to get to know what the visitor likes and what he or she wants to do.

"There's a whole lot to do here," Harrison said. "Our parks, our bike trails, pockets of [gardens], Valley Nursery." She wants to guide visitors to local activities or sites they would enjoy.

The second part of the project would boost Poulsbo's online presence. Harrison will hire a second person to improve the Chamber's website and social media presence. Harrison wants to build a Visit Poulsbo website, with a calendar of events and local links.

Harrison also spoke with the Poulsbo Marketing Coalition and the Historic Downtown Poulsbo Association about sharing a social media person in the future, she said.

Harrison hopes to have a project manager begin by the end of the month to take advantage of Poulsbo's summer events.




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