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Tourism: County will fund full-time marketing director

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Georgetown County hopes to get a full-time tourism marketing director under a new arrangement with the Chamber of Commerce that will cost an extra $20,000 a year. But it will end up with more money to spend on advertising by cutting back on commissions to ad agencies, according to County Council Member Austin Beard.

Beard chairs the council’s tourism and land use committee and worked on the agreement over several months

“It’s not been signed off on. Obviously council’s got to give their blessing,” Beard said. That is expected to happen when the council meets Sept. 12.

The county pays $60,000 to the Chamber of Commerce to provide staff support to the Tourism Management Commission, which the council created in 2008 to handle tourism marketing. Sally Hogan, the chamber’s part-time tourism coordinator, works with the commission. She presented its request for a $200,000 accommodations tax grant last week.

The commission gets 30 percent of the county’s revenue from the state’s 2 percent tax on short-term rentals for marketing. It also applies for an additional share through grants from County Council.

Under the new arrangement, the council will give the chamber $80,000 to hire a tourism marketing director. The chamber will also contribute $25,000, Beard said.

“I’m not sure where that money’s coming from,” he said.

Annette Fisher, the chamber president, could not be reached for comment.

While the chamber will hire the director, that person will be responsible to the tourism commission, Beard said. The job will require putting together a marketing plan and implementing it under the commission’s oversight.

The commission “is going to have the ultimate decision as to performance,” he said.

The current marketing plan was created by the commission’s ad agency, Rawle Murdy Associates of Charleston. The agency also created the Hammock Coast brand that the commission has used to market the county to potential visitors for whom Georgetown County has no particular cachet.

After the commission ran into a cash-flow crisis in 2010, soon after the launch of the Hammock Coast brand, it began to cut back on fees for agency services, such as public relations and a co-op ad program with local businesses.

The commission uses Rawle Murdy to place ads with money from its 30 percent allocation, but also places its own ads with funds from additional accommodations tax grants in order to save on agency commissions.

“Rather than paying dollars for administration,” Beard said, “we’re going to take those same dollars and spend them much more wisely and more efficiently. We’re not going to be paying commissions.”

The result, he said, will be more money spent on advertising.

“It’s something that everybody will be happy with,” Beard said.p> [E-Mail Article To a Friend]

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