Downturn limits city dollars for tourism promotion

November 16, 2010

By Warren Kagarise

City leaders plan to use limited tourism dollars to help Village Theatre reach a broader audience, promote the Salmon Days Festival throughout the state and defray costs for the Fenders on Front Street car show.

The city Lodging Tax Advisory Committee has recommended $95,000 for a half-dozen projects. The bulk — $68,000 — has been earmarked for the Visitor Information Center operated by the Issaquah Chamber of Commerce.

City Council members seem poised to approve the recommendations next month as part of the 2011 municipal budget.

The committee recommended less than $9,000 apiece for the other projects. In some cases, the recipients received only a fraction of the requested amount.

The chamber is also in line to receive $5,000 to maintain and expand a tourism website.

Besides the chamber, committee members recommended $5,000 for the Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery docent program. The committee offered $6,500 to Village Theatre to help market the theater throughout the region and $2,000 to Fenders on Front Street, a DownTown Issaquah Association event.

Members recommended $8,500 to fund travel for Salmon Days organizers. Robin Kelley, festivals director at the Issaquah Chamber of Commerce and the lead Salmon Days organizer, said the dollars help event staffers attend other Washington festivals. The other festivals, in turn, send representatives and floats to Salmon Days.

“The organization is built on reciprocation,” Kelley said.

The committee rejected pitches to use tourism money to produce glossy brochures and magazines to lure people to Issaquah.

“I think we have really limited dollars,” Councilwoman Eileen Barber, a committee member, said during the Nov. 2 meeting.

The economic downturn and subsequent slowdown in travel impacted the lodging tax fund.

The city collects a 1-percent tax on hotel and motel rooms. Under state law, the money raised can only be used for tourism promotion, or to acquire or operate tourism-related facilities.

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