Destination Marketing Fund subject to some scrutiny

The report from the Legislative and Governance Services Manager regarding Tourism Red Deer – Enhanced Destination Marketing received some criticism at City council this week.

On June 13 a condition was lifted from the agreement, which allowed the $75,000 request for one-time funding to Tourism Red Deer to proceed.

Mayor Morris Flewwelling explained that there had been some concerns regarding the governance and how it was going to work to make sure that the money went to the purpose, which was identified in the report.

“I think having measurable goals and having a report come back to council will help. It is not ongoing funding, it was funding to encourage the private sector to get rolling,” said Flewwelling.

Howard Thompson, land and economic development manager, said the goal is to create a marketing plan so that the Destination Marketing Fund (DMF) does not have to hire a consultant.

The DMF is a voluntary endeavor to charge a 1% levy on local hotel rooms.

The governance of the funds regarding who will approve the expenditure of the funds is the cause for some debate amongst council members.

Councillor Tara Veer said the original request was for $175,000 as an increase on the existing grant to Tourism Red Deer. This request was not approved as it had been worded.

“We ended up putting a motion forward for $75,000 to help articulate the governance model and to help leverage funds for the DMF,” said Veer.

She said one of the goals is to get other hoteliers interested in taking part in the DMF. The funding was thought to be going particularly to the development of a planning document for the DMF’s intended course of action.

Councillor Cindy Jefferies said she thinks it could just possibly have been a misunderstanding around the table.

Thompson also pointed out that the DMF would like to utilize the already existing Tourism Red Deer web site.

“We didn’t want the DMF going off and creating a whole other brand for tourism in Red Deer so it’s not creating a new brand but utilizing a common voice,” said Thompson.

Jefferies said her support on the issue was very much conditional that the funds would be used to leverage the DMF and become sustainable to have some seed money.

“It will have benefits for Red Deer. I think it’s absolutely critical that this plan be developed and for more hoteliers in both the City and the County to become a part of the DMF because if that doesn’t happen it’s not as if we could swallow the fact that the DMF didn’t take off this time.”

Several communities already have these funds in place and have been able to capitalize on marketing to Edmonton and Calgary, which is the same market that Red Deer is vying for.