It’s now a city contractor, but the Oak Ridge Convention and Visitors Bureau could become a municipal department, possibly starting this fall, under a proposal now being considered by city officials.
Set up in 1981, the ORCVB is the city’s tourism organization. Among other things, it helps present the annual Secret City Festival; promotes rowing, travel, and events; and operates a visitors center at Midtown Community Center on Robertsville Road. The contract with the city is its only contract.
The bureau is funded by hotel and motel tax collections. But those collections have fallen for the past four years, from roughly $550,000 in Fiscal Year 2009 to about $490,000 in FY 2013. During a Tuesday work session, Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson said there have been reductions in reductions in government travel and daily expense, or per diem, reimbursements.
As the hotel and motel tax collections have fallen, so has the value of the ORCVB’s contract with the city, from $404,208 a few years ago to $314,100 now. The percentage the bureau has earned from the hotel tax revenues has also been reduced during the past three years, from 80 percent a few years ago to 65.4 percent today.
A proposal to bring the ORCVB “in-house” has been discussed in the past, but a presentation by Watson on Tuesday included concrete steps for implementing it. The presentation suggests finalizing a transition plan for Oct. 1 and funding a first-quarter operation.
A contract with the ORCVB would no longer be needed, and the executive director would report to the city manager, Watson said. He suggested the move could help the ORCVB take advantage of city services and support, and print services and website personnel.
ORCVB Executive Director Katy Brown said there are “pros and cons” both to keeping the bureau as a stand-alone agency and making it a city department. She said the integration could make the bureau’s operations more seamless, although the seven-member ORCVB board, which is appointed by the Oak Ridge City Council, hasn’t taken a position on the proposal yet.
It wasn’t clear during Tuesday’s non-voting work session if City Council members were ready to endorse the move. Some suggested a new approach could be useful and integration with the city could make the bureau’s job easier, while others had concerns about maintaining the independence of the ORCVB, expanding the city government, and ensuring that the change would be the most cost-effective solution.
See Watson’s presentation here: Oak Ridge Promotion.