City Council to receive update on tourism development fund, Funhouse Fest numbers

rarriaza@vagazette.com

City Council is expected to hear from city staff and the organizers of June’s Funhouse Fest at its work session on Monday, Sept. 10.

Interim City Manager Andrew Trivette and Michelle Mixner DeWitt, the city’s economic development director, will present Council with an updated implementation strategy for the Tourism Development Fund.

Originally adopted by Council last year, the TDF was meant to bring in tourism marketing funds to the city through increases to lodging and meals taxes and the creation of an admissions tax. Last May, City Council had to repeal those taxes to allow the Historic Triangle sales tax increase to take effect, which established a regional marketing fund and Tourism Council, funded by a 1 percent sales tax and $2 room tax increase.

Despite the repeal of the taxes, the TDF remains a special revenue fund in the city’s budget with the purpose of increasing patronage to city restaurants, attractions, hotels and events through investment in tourism products and destination marketing, according to the budget guide for the city’s fiscal year 2019 budget plan.

According to documents submitted to Council, the city is expected to collect $2.5 million in SB 942 funds, with plans to devote $2.1 million of that tax revenue to grants funding new projects driving tourism to the city.

After an initial discussion around implementation at a City Council meeting last month, Trivette and DeWitt are expected to return with revisions to the makeup of a planned five-person advisory committee, which would review funding applications and provide City Council and the City Manager’s Office with recommendations for funding.

Review committee members would be appointed by Council, and would serve two year terms with the possibility of serving up to three consecutive terms. Council and city staff previously established that the committee would be made up of three representatives from the city’s tourism industry and two members from the community.

After a month of discussion, Trivette and DeWitt are expected to suggest adding ex officio members from the Planning Commission and Economic Development Authority to the review committee. According to city documents, this change would streamline the review process, which previously required two separate presentations to be made to Planning Commission and the EDA before being presented to Council.

FunHouse Fest report

Virginia Arts Festival manager Scott Jackson and director Rob Cross also will be at Monday’s work session, with a presentation on final attendance and revenue figures from the 2018 Funhouse Fest.

The two-day music festival hit the lawn of the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg for the third year in June, and while total revenue and attendance numbers increased from the first year it was held, they dropped from highs set in 2017.

The presentation to Council shows that a total of 7,405 people from 32 states attended the festival this year, an attendance drop of nearly 300 from the year before. Total revenue, which reached $674,924 this year, was a $11,559 decrease from 2017.

The report shows that the Funhouse Festival brought in a little more than 7,000 attendees and $501,086 in total revenue in its first year.

One expected highlight from Jackson and Cross’ report is the economic impact of festival-goers from out of town. The Virginia Arts Festival estimates that 55 percent of ticket sales came from out-of-towners, which is an increase from the two previous years. Festival-goers who were visiting Williamsburg booked a total of 2,160 rooms in the city during the festival, bringing in around $663,120 in spending from out-of-town-ticket buyers, according to the report.

In future years, the report states that organizers hope to increase the number of food trucks at the event and continue to partner with local restaurants, breweries and wineries.

Want to go?

Where: City Council Chambers, Stryker Center, 412 N. Boundary St.

When: 4 p.m. Sept. 10.

Arriaza can be reached at 757-790-9313 or on Twitter @rodrigoarriaza0.

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