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Visit Austin’s Local Optics Problem

AustinThe timing could not have been worse (or more politically motivated). Last week's local TV story that cited what reporters felt was excessive spending on alcohol and concert tickets by Visit Austin dropped the day before the City Council was to vote on the DMO's 2018 budget. And, with no time to mount anything more than a measured explanation of how the Destination Marketing world works, it is no surprise that the Council postponed its vote on the matter for two weeks.

But, the comments made during and after the meeting once again should serve as a wake-up call for everyone in Destination Marketing. The people running our cities don't understand our business and how it impacts their bottom lines. And, the media doesn't care to understand our business because it's more fun stirring the cauldron of discontent.

One City Councilperson, in asking for an audit of the DMO (which they already do every year as a matter of course), said that in all her years in government, she had never used taxpayer dollars to buy a drink. Except, I would surmise, never in her years in government has she been expected to entertain a client that could bring hundreds of thousands of dollars of spending to her community. 

A long-time citizen critic of Visit Austin (who wants some of the Room Tax diverted to one of his pet projects) said that hotels have no more of a claim over the taxes they collect from guests than restaurants or other local businesses have over the sales taxes they collect from customers. Which, on the surface, is kind of true. Except sales taxes are not restricted by State Statute to only being invested in actions that would increase tourism, heritage and the arts. Room Taxes in Texas are.

It's certainly not the most enjoyable part of our jobs in Destination Marketing...but, we need to be communicating what and why we do what we do to every single person that has the ability to influence the investment of Room Tax revenues. And, we need to do it every single day.

Bill Geist

Bill GeistBill Geist

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