Victoria Convention and Visitors Bureau in midst of change


July 2, 2011 at 2:02 a.m.

With its open executive director position and pending move to the City of Victoria's management, change is coming for the Victoria Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Some say they hope that change spreads to the bureau's practices, too.

The bureau is in the process of moving financial reports over to the city and updating job descriptions, said O.C. Garza, the city's communications director.

The search for a new executive director will likely begin within the next week or so, he said, and the ideal candidate will have three or more years of experience in a tourism administrative role. An ability to manage both the budget and staff, as well as lay down strategic plans for travel to Victoria, is also important.

The bureau's switchover from Victoria Chamber of Commerce management to the city's management is on the agenda for Tuesday's city council meeting. The change is expected to be official Aug. 1, Garza said.

Plans are to continue the "Bring Your Boots" campaign already under way to attract visitors to town, he said, and the BootFest, scheduled for late October, will still take place.

"We are trying to make this a fairly seamless transition," Garza said. "We think it will be."

Victoria City Councilman David Hagan said he hoped the new director would be someone with more familiarity with the community and Texas as a whole.

Previous director Bridgette Bise, who left the position in late June, was from Missouri.

He said he would also like to see more discretion when it comes to spending. Two years in a row, the convention and visitors bureau received $750,000 for promotional efforts, he said, and there is no definitive correlation between those practices and Victoria's improving economy.

"People came to Victoria because of the Eagle Ford Shale and because of the oil and gas industry," he said. "I think that's why hotels are full."

The boots campaign could also use work, Hagan said.

"What makes boots distinctive to Victoria?" he asked. "This is Texas for God sakes. It's not like we produce boots in Victoria. We're a historic city. That would be something to build off of."

Victoria City Councilman Gabriel Soliz said he hoped to see the organization advertise actual events, rather than Victoria itself.

He also suggested focusing on the city's history, noting that past advertising efforts emphasized destinations such as the Texas Zoo, ballet and museums.

"That's all well and good, but the thing is we need something that can actually bring someone here and spend the weekend, rather than a couple of hours," he said. "It's almost like putting the cart before the horse, the tactic the CVB was using before."

Soliz said he also questioned the Bring Your Boots efforts because many constituents opposed the idea.

"At the end of the day, your best promoter is going to be your citizens," he said. "If they're not on board, you're just wasting money."

Like Soliz, Willow Dean Davis said she hoped to see more events make their way to Victoria, so the city had something to offer visitors.

"If you can stop in Corpus Christi or Houston, why stop in Victoria?" she asked.

It would help if more businesses joined together to promote the city, said Davis, who owns Willow's Boutique, where she sells purses, jewelry and hats.

Although the monthly Market Days events are a start, she said an annual event where every business in town joined together could draw people from all over.

Davis said she also hoped promotion of the city would draw more shopping centers and large stores to town. Not only would it give visitors something to do, but it would also give Crossroads residents a reason to spend money locally.

"We need more to offer, especially for the ladies," she said. "Because, no matter what, they like to shop."

Usage of the hotel/motel tax is the main concern Bill McLeod, who owns the Friendly Oaks Bed and Breakfast, said he has with the switchover.

The tax is to be used to attract people to Victoria, not to merge into a political entity's budget, he said.

"I ... have not seen what the city's plans are for the convention and visitors bureau," he said. "It's now another governmental agency. That raises a question. Is that the best way to do it? Are we not better having it privatized?"

The convention and visitors bureau has a good mission and marketing program, and will utilize those as it continues on, said Randy Vivian, president and CEO of the Victoria Chamber of Commerce.

"The city's got a really, really good management team," Vivian said. "I'm excited to see what they're really going to do. I think they'll take what we have developed with the CVB and improve it moving forward."



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