Convention and visitors bureau to move, goes under city management


May 31, 2011 at 12:31 a.m.

The Victoria Convention and Visitors Bureau will soon relocate and operate under the City of Victoria.

The Victoria Chamber of Commerce, which has overseen the bureau since its beginnings in the late 1970s, announced Tuesday it would not renew the visitors bureau contract.

The change was a joint decision between both the chamber and visitors bureau, said Randy Vivian, the chamber's president and CEO. It not only means more visibility for the bureau, but also allows the entity more say in how its money is spent.

"Right now, we're the middle man," Vivian said, explaining it was OK back when the bureau's budget was down around the $200,000 mark, but didn't make sense as it grew and became more established. "They really need to have a bigger say in how that money is spent."

Vivian let the city know about three weeks ago that the chamber would not renew the contract, said Charmelle Garrett, Victoria city manager.

Although the official transition will not take place until Oct. 1, the bureau will likely be in its new home by late June or early July, she said.

The visitors bureau will lease building space for the four months or so it calls the Main Street site home before the contract changes hands.

"I think it'll be a real smooth transition," Garrett said of the move. "It's good."

Bridgette Bise, executive director of the visitors bureau, said she had been working toward a move to a more visible location for quite some time.

"On my first arrival here - even on my tour - I was surprised to see the office wasn't downtown," Bise said, noting the visitors center's name isn't even on the current building's sign. "The downtown is the heartbeat of the city."

The move also frees up the money the bureau paid the chamber in management fees for other endeavors, Bise said.

"It's only $7,500 a year, but $7,500 is a pretty good deal of advertising," she said. "We could place some nice radio ads in Corpus Christi or San Antonio with that."

She said she plans to remain in the 700 N. Main St. location, which will offer better visibility, and allow the organization to better track the number of visitors who come to Victoria, for two or three years before building a first-class visitors' center downtown.

The move comes at a good time, she said, noting the office will be at its new home for the first-ever Boot Fest in October.

"This is a great step forward to bring back the renaissance of downtown," she said. "I'm very excited about it."



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