Madison tourism office assesses 2004; gears for 2005

CVB enjoys a 17 percent increase
in innkeepers tax in 2004

Don Ward

(February 2005) – The Madison Area Convention and Visitors Bureau enters 2005 with many events and goals but still struggles to meet its budget in these tough economic times. The CVB board has been trying to approve its 2005 budget since October and finally voted on one at its January meeting.

Tiffini Poling

Photo by Don Ward

Tiffini Poling displays
some of the items
sold in the tourism gift
shop, which has been a
financial success.

It did, however, get over an unexpected hurdle last fall when it settled a dispute with the Lanier Mansion Foundation after the foundation in September threatened to keep 10 percent of all event ticket sales conducted on the premises of the tourism office. That would have meant paying out as much as $1,500 of the proceeds from ticket sales for the Madison Ribberfest alone to the foundation, and would have included sales of tickets for the Nights Before Christmas Candlelight Tour of Homes.
The CVB board argued that its gift shop sales agreement did not include ticket sales for its events. The agreement said the two parties would split the cost of operating the gift shop and the cost of renting a credit card processing machine. After a series of letters back and forth with the foundation, the CVB board at one point was ready to move its gift shop out of the building to avoid paying a percentage of its ticket sales revenue. But in the end, the foundation relented.
Moving the tourism office from its previous location on Main Street to the newly renovated building next door to the Lanier State Historic Site on First Street in March 2003 remains as one of the most contentious issues among local retailers. CVB officials defend the move, citing their free rent, expanded space and improved parking, especially for tour buses. The CVB had been paying $200 per month in rent to the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce at its previous location at 301 E. Main St.
Also in 2004, the CVB staff changed. Tour operator Aimee Stovall left for another job and was replaced by part-time employee Marcia Jones. Ann Mulligan of Vevay, Ind., was hired as the part-time marketing director. Office manager Tiffini Poling and part-time weekend assistant Dianne Barnes are the other paid employees.
Event-wise, the Madison Ribberfest, in its third year, reported strong ticket sales and attendance, topping the previous year. More than 11,000 were estimated when including children under 12 and vendors.
The Madison Chautau-qua enjoyed good weather and reported another outstanding year, attendance wise, although admission is free and no official count is available.
The Candlelight Tour, however, reported 2,667 tickets sold, compared with 3,045 in 2003. CVB executive director Linda Lytle attributed the decline to the fact many home tour fans had just attended the Tri-Kappa Tour of Homes in October. “We always sell fewer tickets for our home tour in years when there is a Tri-Kappa tour.”
The Tri-Kappa sorority holds its tour every other year on even years. Tickets sales this year did top that of 2002, when 2,642 tickets were sold.

Madison CVB

Photo by Don Ward

The Madison Area Convention and
Visitors Bureau moved into this
newly renovated building in March 2003.

The CVB derives the majority of its operational money from innkeepers’ taxes, generated by local hotels and bed and breakfasts. It also earns proceeds from festival ticket and souvenir sales, and money granted to it by the Jefferson County Board of Tourism, the tax collecting entity. Last year’s innkeepers’ taxes were up 17 percent, Lytle reported. That’s considerably higher than the previous two years of 3 and 4 percent and the minus 8 percent seen in 2001. Jefferson County collected $218,738 in innkeepers tax in 2004, amounting to $3,645 million in gross sales. That was the highest ever, and nearly $30,000 more in tax than collected in 2000, its previously highest year.
Lytle said that increase in innkeepers’ tax is a measure of her office’s success but admitted that much of the increase was generated by corporate travelers, not tourists. She used the increase to justify a 5 percent pay raise for herself and her staff and a higher car allowance. The staff generally receives a raise each year of between 3 percent and 5 percent, she said. Lytle also lobbied the board to pay for the staff’s medical insurance premiums, but the board declined, staying with the current payment of 10 percent of their premiums.

Madison CVB

Linda Lytle

The board’s employee benefits cost this year will increase by nearly $4,000 by taking on the partial coverage of insurance premiums for the two two part-time employees.
Other changes for this year include some new members to the CVB board itself. The nine-member board consists of appointments representing various governmental and nonprofit agencies. But for more than a year now, the board has never filled all of its vacancies. The Madison-Jefferson County Economic Development Corp (MIDCOR) still has yet to designate its appointee for 2005. New appointments for 2005 include Bev Ford, representing the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce, and Lucy Dattilo, an at large appointee.
The board generally meets at 5:30 p.m. on the second Wednesday of each month, however, this month’s meeting has been moved to 4 p.m. on Feb. 8. The public is welcome.

Back to February 2005 Articles.



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