Tourism Council increases marketing budget by $2.4 million

Staff writer

The Tourism Council revealed an updated 2019 budget Tuesday, which included a $2.4 million bump to marketing spending to further energize the organization’s efforts to entice overnight tourists to visit the Historic Triangle.

The additional funds bring the organization’s budget to $11 million, an almost 30 percent increase from the $8.5 million budget the Tourism Council approved in December. All the new funding is related to marketing activity. The lion’s share — $1.9 million — will go toward additional media spending. The rest of the new funding consists of $375,000 for marketing research and $125,000 for public relations.

Most of the additional media spending is in television advertising — both on-air networks and streaming services on networks such as ABC, TLC and Hulu, said Dave Potter, Greater Williamsburg Chamber and Tourism Alliance marketing director. The Tourism Council is part of the Alliance.

“TV gives a good credibility to your product. We’re not just over the air, we’re also on streaming channels,” Potter said after the meeting. “It’s depending on the market that you’re going after.”

New public relations efforts include an expanded influencer program and photo library expansion, Potter said.

The Tourism Council unanimously voted to approve the additional marketing funds at its March 19 meeting.

The increased spending is made possible by a more positive outlook on tax revenue figures, Potter said.

When the Tourism Council made its initial budget, it was intentionally set below the revenue it expected to rake in through its share of the 1-percent sales tax surcharge and $2 transient occupancy tax. The Tourism Council and Williamsburg, James City and York split the revenues 50-50 based on where the taxes are collected. At the time, it was expected the Tourism Council’s tax revenue would come in at $12 million.

More recently, the Tourism Council expects to generate $14.8 million in tax revenues, according to projections shared with the Tourism Council in March. Projected tax revenue, along with anticipated annual direct funding allocations from the localities, make for a total revenue projection of $16.3 million in 2019.

“Everybody was really conservative,” Potter said. “It’s a confidence level thing.”

It’s likely the Tourism Council will continue to amend its budget based on updated revenue projections and fine-tune marketing efforts in the future, Potter said.

In other news Vicki Cimino, the Tourism Council’s new executive director, made her first appearance at a Tourism Council monthly meeting. Cimino started in her role as the chief of the Tourism Council’s marketing office Monday.

Ciminio was hired as a result of the Tourism Council’s five-month, $25,000 search for an executive director, a position created by SB 942. As executive director, Cimino reports to the Tourism Council. Previously, she’s served as the director of the New Hampshire Division of Travel and Tourism Development, which is the state’s tourism marketing entity.

“I’m so excited to be here, so thank you for this opportunity,” Cimino said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do and I’m really excited about it.”

Jack Jacobs, 757-298-6007, jojacobs@vagazette.com, @jajacobs_

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