By Moses Leos III
A local Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) has supported the Kyle Chamber of Commerce in its effort to promote tourism to the city for several years. But Kyle officials are now considering diverting some of those funds in hopes of reaching potential job creators.
This year, if passed by city council, Kyle will allocate $20,000 to the Greater San Marcos Partnership (GSMP). In the past, that amount was $5,000.
“We have stated that we want Kyle to become a destination,” Kyle City Manager Scott Sellers said. “We feel than an additional $20,000 toward the Partnership will focus on marketing to employers that are in that destination industry.”
As a result of the change, the Kyle Area Chamber of Commerce, which operates as a visitors center and tourism promotion for Kyle, could see its funding cut in half in 2016.
According to Sellers, the use of HOT funds toward the GSMP falls under criterion set by the state comptroller’s office. Specifically, he said the funds would be used for marketing and could lead to development benefitting the hotel and lodging industry.
Adriana Cruz, president of GSMP, said the partnership is a regional economic development organization for Hays and Caldwell counties. The focus is job creation and to increase investment through the two counties’ footprint.
Cities that are a part of the GSMP include San Marcos, Kyle, Lockhart, Luling, Wimberley and Dripping Springs.
Funding for the GSMP derives from both public and private entities. Cruz said the GSMP operates on three functions, which include marketing promotions of the counties and communities, business recruitment and relocation to the region.
According to Cruz, the GSMP has helped Kyle by providing additional resources, such as research assistance. She said the partnership has a more “expansive marketing budget” than the city’s Economic Development. The partnership works in targeting its marketing strategy toward potential companies and prospects to bring awareness to the region. They also work on behalf of the county with all communities.
Cruz said in economic development, companies often look at the region rather than individual cities. She said focusing on a regional level would help “leverage all of your assets.” In addition, she said it allows multiple communities to benefit from potential development.
“Hays County is growing and we know this,” Cruz said. “Working together and working collaboratively, we can do more than if we’re working with our own strategy.”
For Sellers, the idea is to have the GSMP target its marketing strategy to include “destination attraction.” Sellers said the GSMP will assist in introducing potential prospects with the region to identify potential sites to develop.
He said focusing on the regional approach is advantageous because, “A rising tide floats all ships.”
“It’s our hope that as those dollars goes to primary attraction companies, they respond to the partnership, and they’ll reach out to us, knowing that’s one of our focuses,” Sellers said.
Part of the remaining monies previously earmarked for the chamber will, at least this coming year, be allocated for signage and an events coordinator position at the city.
Sellers said the chamber’s mission isn’t meant to attract destination retailers; it’s designed to operate as a visitors center.
Kyle Chamber CEO Julie Snyder said she found out about the city’s use of HOT funds for the GSMP during the city’s second budget workshop on Aug. 1. She said the reduction in funds could mean a reduction in services for the chamber.
That could include the elimination of Kyle-centric advertisements in the Texas State Travel Guide and Texas Highways magazine. The chamber wouldn’t have enough budget to promote the Kyle Fair and Music Festival after 2015.
“My main goal is to be able to continue to promote Kyle in a positive manner,” Snyder said. “The return on investment has been there. I believe we have a good reputation in our professionalism … and the results of our ads have been good.”
Despite the loss in funds, Snyder doesn’t anticipate a drop-off in membership for the chamber. Snyder said the chamber derives most of its funding from membership dues. She said the organization will continue to focus on serving its members and their needs.
The decision of how the city should go with its marketing strategies is now up to the city council.
“The chamber has been honored to have that contract (to do promotion for the city),” Snyder said. “If they choose to go in different direction, that’s their choice.”
Where do the Hotel Occupancy funds go?
Transfer out: Income and Sinking Fund $36,503
Transfer out: General Fund: $24,894
Transfer out: General Fund – Capital Improvement Projects (Gateway signage): $75,000
Community Events: $5,000
Tourism Marketing (Greater San Marcos Partnership): $20,000
Historic Water Tower: $0
Chamber of Commerce: $63,000