City Council to Look into Criteria for Tourism Funding

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Williamsburg Municipal Building

After approving $60,000 to support two tourism initiatives in the Historic Triangle, the Williamsburg City Council may change how it selects tourism programs to fund.

Council members unanimously approved the two requests for funding from the City of Williamsburg’s one-time tourism promotion contingency fund at its meeting Thursday.

The Virginia Arts Festival requested $50,000 to support the 20th anniversary season of Festival Williamsburg, an annual celebration of arts and music in Williamsburg. The Williamsburg Hotel-Motel Association requested $20,000 to fund the production of tourism maps for use by visitors to the Historic Triangle. Council members approved a city staff-recommended figure of $10,000 for the maps, and requested the city retain ownership of any map designs produced.

Council members were generally supportive of the proposals, but emphasized the funding would not be regular.

“We need to make it clear this is a one-time infusion of money, and not something we’ll be able to sustain,” Vice Mayor Paul Freiling said, referring to the $50,000 appropriation for Festival Williamsburg, specifically.

Consideration of the immediate proposals led to a larger discussion of the tourism contingency fund itself. The fund was created as part of the city’s 2014-15 budget process as a $250,000 fund to support tourism programming in the Williamsburg area.

There are currently no specific criteria in place to evaluate requests for funding, but Mayor Clyde Haulman said the council typically tried to offer funding to recently created organizations and events, and initiatives that had good potential to boost the area’s tourism profile.

“We created the fund so, when something comes up, we could help it grow,” he said. “The idea would be, there are all sorts of things we think would add to the idea that this is a community with a lot of things going on, and we would help out new ones as they come along.”

Haulman cited the example of the Winter Blues Jazz festival as a success story for the contingency fund.

“With the jazz festival, what we did was advertise on jazz radio stations in the D.C. area, and that seemed to pay off,” he said. “The number of people coming from that area was large in terms of total attendance.”

Since its creation, Haulman said most requests for support from the fund had been approved.

Councilman Doug Pons said the creating specific criteria for the contingency fund would be a positive move.

“I’d like to develop a plan of what we’re going to do with this money,” Pons said. “It’s kind of slipshod [right now].”

After the meeting, Haulman said the council would likely have city staff look into developing criteria to evaluate requests. Haulman added he would be interested in making the fund permanent, replenishing it every one or two years.

“We’ve been thinking about what’s going to expand opportunities for people,” Haulman said. “If they come here, are there going to be events to create the opportunity for them to stay multiple nights.”

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