Nonprofit and event organizations that have been waiting since early fall soon will have their chance to vie for accommodation-tax grants from the city of Beaufort.
The awards typically are decided in late summer or early fall, but this year's process was delayed as the city considered ways to improve its system.
On Tuesday, City Council gave the go-ahead for the Tourist Development Advisory Committee to distribute applications.
The city has $196,000 to award, city manager Scott Dadson said. The accommodations tax, often referred to as a "bed tax," is a levy on overnight lodging to fund programs promoting tourism and attract visitors from out of the area.
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The council could have waited to award grants until next fall and combined the 2012 and 2013 money.
"We're going to find out what the problems are by trying," Councilman Mike Sutton said. "You can't keep designing and designing without trying."
Applications will not go out until after a Jan. 26 tourism summit, committee chairman Jeff Evans said. The summit follows one last January, at which more than 60 residents and interested parties discussed Beaufort's attributes and ways to market them.
This summit, however, will focus on explaining the new process, Evans said.
Applications will be due back by about the end of February, he said.
The committee will review applications and make recommendations to City Council, which will vote on how to distribute the grants. A decision could be made near the end of March, he said.
The grants will be evaluated on number of criteria, including the applicant's accountability and cooperation with other groups. Applicants should fit into at least one of four categories -- history and culture groups, events and festivals, the arts, or outdoor recreation.
Robb Wells, tourism director for the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce, said his office will assist groups with their applications and with finding ways to work with other groups and businesses. Although he will discuss opportunities during the tourism summit, he encouraged those interested in applying to speak with him sooner.