Study Displays Stakeholder Response Ahead of Possible Chamber, CVB Split

Mike Fussell

Tuesday, December 19th, 2017

Albany city commissioners are leaning towards separating the city's tourism marketer and the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce. 

A UGA Carl Vinson Institute study included best practice suggestions and insights from local tourism stakeholders.

The study recommended the chamber and visitors bureau split, and an independent CVB be adopted. 

Right now, the tourism marketer, funded by bed tax dollars, is responsible for bringing visitors to town as a department of the Chamber of Commerce, but that may soon change. 

"I think that most of the commissioners feel that since we do allocate funds, it would be in the best interest to split from the chamber of commerce and all that," Commissioner Jon Howard said.

Albany city commissioners discussed the split at a meeting on Tuesday. A majority of them voiced to WALB that they would approve an independent CVB. 

"We need the tourism dollars, we need the conventions, we need them to look at Albany, Georgia, take us serious and we're entitled to that money just the way our other surrounding communities are," explained City Commissioner BJ Fletcher.

The study also surveyed local visitors bureau stakeholders to see what they thought of the current governance model.

One unnamed respondent said an independent nonprofit organization with a mix of chamber, government and industry would be best.

Others responding said they believed government and politicians should not be on the board and that the CVB is too chamber focused. 

Albany Chamber President Barbara Rivera Holmes said she thinks the chamber model is working.

"I don't think that requires a change in the governance structure," Holmes said. "It was said today that the governance structure works and, in fact, one of the state's most successful convention and visitors bureau is the CVB model that is used in Savannah."

The Carl Vinson Institute study states that, if there were to be a split, it would have a minimal impact on the Albany chamber. 

"We'll have a discussion with the chamber about how that will affect their budget and how much time and date do they need to make the change," Mayor Dorothy Hubbard said, regarding the proposed change.  

When WALB asked chamber members if they believed the proposed change would have an impact on them or their productivity, they said no.  

"The Albany Chamber and Visitors Bureau is a division of the chamber and we work very closely with that division," Holmes said. "I know what you're getting at and the answer is no."

Holmes reinforced that the current return on investment from the CVB is healthy and working well.

Those are all considerations the commissioners will have to take into account before making a decision next month.

The topic is scheduled to be discussed again on Jan 8.