Beaufort News

Change in marketing designation matter of semantics, VCB head says

Little would change if the recently independent Beaufort, Port Royal and Sea Island Visitors and Convention Bureau replaces its former parent organization -- the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce -- as northern Beaufort County's designated marketing organization, VCB officials said.

But Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling said his city won't automatically bestow the VCB with that designation, which comes with guaranteed funding, if the chamber relinquishes its role.

VCB officials made a lengthy presentation during a Beaufort City Council work session Tuesday as part of the organization's push to replace the chamber as the region's designated marketing organization, a distinction that would entitle the VCB to a slice of accommodations and hospitality taxes distributed each year by Beaufort County, Beaufort and Port Royal. The dollars must be used for tourism-related marketing and activities.

"Nothing's a done deal," Keyserling said. "Everybody believes that they gave one of the best and most substantive presentations we've seen in many years ... and the job before us now is to dig a little deeper. The stars aligned for this to happen ... but if the chamber wants to step down as the DMO, should we put out an (request for proposal) to see what else is out there?

"It could give us a chance to see if there are other ways of doing it."

Helping the VCB become the designated marketing organization for northern Beaufort County governments was among the goals established earlier this year by chamber officials when they decided to make its visitor and convention bureau a separate entity.

Bob Moquin, VCB executive director, said the split wouldn't become official until the VCB earns the DMO status, which he expects to have little effect on the chamber.

"What we're talking about is truly semantic," Moquin said. "It's simply a matter of how the money flows through to the VCB."

Chamber officials were silent this week about what impact the change might have on its organization.

Jon Rembold, the incoming chairman of the chamber's board of directors, and Stephen Murray, another board member, declined to comment.

Several attempts this week to reach Blakely Williams, the chamber's new president and CEO, and other board members for comment were unsuccessful.

The VCB received about $136,383 from the city of Beaufort and about $318,000 from Beaufort County this year, according to Moquin's presentation Tuesday to the City Council. The money accounts for about 57 percent of the VCB's revenue this year, according to the presentation.

Moquin said those amounts would not change if the visitors bureau becomes the DMO.

"We're not trying to get a bigger slice of the pie or anything like that," Moquin said. "This isn't a matter of getting more money. There would be no dollar difference one way or another. The public funds that we receive currently flow through the chamber. The checks are cut to the chamber of commerce, and becoming the DMO would change that."

Moquin said he soon will make a similar presentation to Beaufort County Council for its consideration.

"The presentation is an opportunity to educate council and other attendees about what we do," Moquin said. "There's a lot more to it than people might think. It's about working with the industry and with other constituents. ... It's not just a matter of running a few ads."

Follow staff writer Patrick Donohue at twitter.com/ProtectServeBft.

Related Content:

Splitting Beaufort chamber, visitor bureau could make both stronger, officials say, Feb. 5, 2011

Beaufort chamber CEO takes job in NC; visitors bureau to spin off, March, 25, 2011

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