A new player entered the city’s destination marketing efforts as the Tourism Development Fund Review Committee held its first meeting Thursday.
The new city board is made up of five voting members — former Vice-Mayor Scott Foster, Chris Caracci, Amber Ox Public House co-owner Andrew Voss, Catering Company co-owner Craig Reeves and Williamsburg Landing director Sally Wolfe — along with Planning Commission and Economic Development Authority chairs Elaine McBeth and Adam Steely, who serve as non-voting ex-officio members.
All board members are city residents and were appointed to serve two-year terms by City Council.
At Thursday’s meeting, the board unanimously elected Caracci, engagement manager at The Disney Institute, to serve as its chairman, while Voss will serve as the review committee’s vice-chairman. The board is expected to meet monthly.
The newly created Tourism Development Fund Review Committee will review funding applications and recommend how City Council should dole out $2.1 million in SB 942 and room tax revenue on new tourism-driving projects in the city.
“The purpose is to increase patronage to restaurants, attractions, hotels and events in the city of Williamsburg, so bringing people to the city to spend their time and money here through financial assistance and re-investment in tourism products, placemaking projects, special events and public-private partnerships,” Economic Development Director Michele Mixner DeWitt said.
DeWitt led the board’s first meeting, but said she expects new city Tourism Development Specialist Lysa Byham to facilitate future meetings.
At the meeting, the board also approved the first of a two-phase application process for tourism grants. In September, Caracci is expected to present a recommended funding plan to City Council, which has the final authority to allocate grants. Grants will be awarded at council’s October meeting.
“Because that money lags from the state, that money will all be collected by September or October, so our timeline is that you will recommend to City Council which grants should be awarded in September, and then they’ll be awarded in October,” DeWitt told the group. “Your responsibility is to put them under performance measurement agreements, and then track those over time and report back.”
Phase one of the application process will assess whether an applicant is eligible for funding, while the second phase would require more detailed business plans, economic data and conceptual renderings, and would be due May 19.
“Phase two is an exhaustive process. It requires a lot of data that they’ll have to produce, so this makes the most sense, where they pitch their initial idea and you all determine who moves forward to phase two,” Byham said.
Major players in the local tourism industry including Colonial Williamsburg, Culturefix and An Occasion for the Arts are expected to receive a combined $1.4 million in funding through the city’s upcoming fiscal year 2020 budget, but the TDF Review Committee will be responsible for setting performance agreements with them to ensure the money is being spent wisely.
Starting next year, those agencies also will have to go through the review committee’s application process for funds.
The city’s Tourism Development Fund Review Committee will accept phase one funding applications until March 29. For more information, visit bit.ly/2SUO7yR.
Arriaza can be reached at 757-790-9313 or on Twitter @rodrigoarriaza0.