City right to move slowly on marketing group call

Beaufort is right to be deliberate in deciding whether to change its designated marketing organization, which comes with an automatic share of bed-tax collections.

In fact, Beaufort County should follow suit because something seems to be amiss between the organization that has the job now and the organization that seeks it.

City Council heard a pitch July 12 from Bob Moquin, executive director of the Beaufort, Port Royal and Sea Island Visitors and Convention Bureau. Earlier this year, the board of the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce, the marketer for the city and northern Beaufort County, agreed to allow the bureau, which operates under chamber auspices, to become a separate organization if it could get the marketing designation.

A lot of money is on the line. The chamber got $136,383 from the city last fiscal year and another $318,000 from the county. The total amounts to more than a fourth of the the chamber's budget. (Accommodations tax revenue must be spent on tourism-related marketing and activities.)

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

But if the change is so matter-of-course, how to explain that new chamber president Blakely Williams and incoming board chairman Jon Rembold declined comment about the switch for several days after Moquin's presentation? And when the chamber finally issued a news release, it reminded everyone that -- ahem -- it still is the designated marketing organization although it "indeed endorsed its former department" to be considered.

Why the delay? Why the reminder? Perhaps there are second thoughts about the split. Perhaps new people are choosing words slowly and carefully because they're settling into new responsibilities, not because of discord. Perhaps there is another reason altogether.

Whatever the case, there is a reason, and it needs to be made public before any change. In fact, Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling goes one further: Although impressed by Moquin's presentation, he suggested the city could also vote "none of the above."

"(If) the chamber wants to step down as the DMO, should we put out a (request for proposal) to see what else is out there?" he asked. "It could give us a chance to see if there are other ways of doing it."

Good thinking.

The automatic accommodations-tax funding is no organization's birthright, a point conceded in the chamber's release when it noted the designation will be determined by those who collect the tax, not by those who might benefit from it. State law only requires that it be a nonprofit group.

Make the decision after more is known about the split and why officials thought it would be a better way to attract tourists to northern Beaufort County.