Beaufort chamber, VCB split offers opportunities to both

Separating the Visitor and Convention Bureau from the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce is worth exploring.

Board members for the chamber and the VCB, which operates under the chamber's auspices, say separation could make both stronger.

The primary benefit would be that each group could proceed with a narrow focus -- the chamber on member services and business growth, the VCB on attracting and satisfying tourists.

An ancillary benefit would be more straightforward accounting and, in turn, greater accountability.

As it stands, the chamber's share of local and state accommodations taxes, charged on overnight lodging, and hospitality taxes on the sale of prepared food and beverages accounts for 46 percent of its revenue. That money is not the chamber's to spend as it wishes -- it must be spent on tourism-related projects and marketing.

Although the chamber's money doesn't all go into one pile, it still is collected under one roof. That can cloud public perception about both the role and frugality of this -- or any other -- chamber. Two entities with separate books and distinct purposes would make for clearer understanding.

Just the same, let's hope the principals have fully considered the separation; it could entail lost efficiencies and new uncertainties.

For instance, would the chamber continue as a designated marketing organization for the city of Beaufort, the town of Port Royal and Beaufort County? Logically, the VCB would assume that role, but if it does, would businesses heavily dependent upon tourism still deem chamber membership worthwhile?

Practical considerations loom, too. For example, what would be the impact on staffing and payroll costs once the groups separate?

The chamber has long worked to attract tourists, and that emphasis was formalized when it formed the VCB in March 2009, according to VCB executive director Bob Moquin. The current discussion is testament to how quickly that effort matured.

And now, it is time for another decision -- one based on a sober examination of economies of scale and a commitment to serve both taxpayers and chamber members.