DOES MORE MONEY FOR MARKETING AND EVENTS EQUAL MORE REVENUES TO MERCHANTS? VCTC WANTS TO KNOW IF REVENUES HAVE BEEN UP, DOWN OR FLAT OVER THE LAST SEVERAL YEARS
DOES MORE MARKETING EQUAL MORE REVENUES FOR ALL OF THE 34 GIFT SHOPS CARRYING SIMILAR PRODUCTS OR WOULD DIVERSIFICATION OF MERCHANDISE HELP?
THE AGE OLD PROBLEMS OF C STREET PARKING, LACK OF MIDWEEK VISITATION, LACK OF RESTAURANTS, LACK OF ACTIVITIES WERE DISCUSSED YET AGAIN…IF ONLY THERE WAS A WORKING MERCHANT GROUP TO ADDRESS THESE ISSUES/OPPORTUNITIES SINCE THESE ARE NOT TOURISM ISSUES
THE 2020 EVENT CALENDAR HAS BEEN DRAFTED, IT WILL GET PUBLISHED ON THE MERCHANT PAGE FOR INPUTS PRIOR TO APPROVAL AT THE JANUARY MEETING
PROMOTION FOR CHRISTMAS ON THE COMSTOCK STARTS NEXT WEEK!
WANT A DONUT??? KATIE DEMUTH NEEDS YOUR HELP ON MONDAY TO DECORATE THE TOWN FOR CHRISTMAS…MEET AT 10AM AT THE NORTH END OF TOWN!
You can find the full Agenda packet HERE.
Judy Cohen, owner of the Silver Stope, kicked off the Public Comment section by saying that town visitor traffic has decreased significantly during the week and that the weekend events are not enough to sustain the merchants. She also noted that she and some other merchants have seen a steady decrease in revenues over time. That her best year was 2002 and that her revenues have been flat to down since then.
Board member Angelo Petrini noted that he had counted 34 “gift shops” and that given that amount of competition with the same merchandise that it would be difficult to pull in more revenue for any one shop. He also noted that the VCTC has been spending more money than ever on various marketing efforts.
Jeff Wood, History Center and Museum Director, also noted that the traffic thru the museum has been on a steady decline over time.
Board member Lance Gilman said that he would like some information on merchant revenues to know if there is a town-wide problem. He suggested a simple survey asking the merchants for their revenue trends over time.
Angelo also noted that the merchants and employees continue to park on C street and that it continues to be an issue. They need to be reminded to leave those spots open for visitors.
Lance also noted that there are fewer restaurants open to keep people in town. That there needs to be an effort to keep people here…he noted that the town needs to focus on how to be a tourist town. Additionally that the local community needs to be targeted to support the town during mid-week. It is not realistic to expect folks off the hill to come to VC during the day since they work or after a full day of work.
Joe Stel, local jeweler, noted that each person driving thru town is an opportunity and that we need to give people a reason to stop and to stay.
Board member Arika Perry, Executive Director of St. Mary’s Art Center, noted that there needs to be a Chamber of Commerce type of role established to deal with what the VCTC can’t do. There are gaps and the VCTC can’t do everything.
SIDENOTE– You’re not going to like this.
It was deja vu all over again.
How many times has this conversation been going on? For me, it’s been 7 years thru my attendance at these meetings. According to Ron Gallagher, it started somewhere between day 5 and 6 of the Lord’s Creation….he knows….he was there.
Nothing gets done about the issues. Right or wrong…I’ve seen a lot of activity on the part of VCTC to address issues within their charter…there are still issues that they need to work on but I’ve seen progress. I have seen few if any ongoing efforts on the part of the merchants.
Last year the Community Coalition coalesced around wanting to fire Deny Dotson for canceling the Ferrari Hill climb, got a lot of steam going on several issues and after the initial push….the effort dissipated.
There have been numerous attempts by committed individuals to get the merchants together to form an ongoing problem solving and self-governing group, I’ve been part of several….and… They. All. Fall. Apart.
They fall apart because outside of the organizers no one else is committed to sticking it out for the long haul. The loooooooog haul. Not easy..it takes work and commitment.
The things discussed during Public Comment in this meeting are all Chamber of Commerce/Merchant type issues….not Tourism issues. In other places, the Chamber deals with many similar things including trying to diversify the town by actively recruiting businesses to come in and working with local government to try and give incentives to those businesses. It seems as if they operate under the “if you build it they will come” philosophy. The “build it” part is the responsibility of the merchants/community….then the Tourism Bureau markets that for the “they will come”….If there is nothing unique to market…no one will come. While our historic district is unique….it that enough to get repeat visitation or is it a one and done visit?
If the merchant community essentially has a “me and mine” and “every man for himself” attitude then these issues will continue going forward since it is not the job of the VCTC to solve them….it is the job of a committed and self-governing merchant organization to do it.
So either the merchants REALLY decide to take their collective future into their own hands and fix things or keep complaining and stay in their shops and let fate determine their individual success.
But I digress……….
The Tourism Tax is way ahead of revenue projections by $84k compared to last year. Four months into the budget year this represents half of the revenue projection for the entire year.
SIDENOTE– If you look at the tourism tax it has begun to go up over the last couple of years. It belies the former statements by merchants about revenues being flat to down over time. Since the department of Taxation can’t break out the tax by VC and TRIC it is hard to know for sure what the overall revenue trend is for VC. This is why it is important for the merchants to provide the revenue trend information to the VCTC. They will not ask you for your actual numbers….I would expect that they would ask you if your revenues have been “flat”, “ up”, or “down” for certain years compared to others. This should be easy to do for everyone.
The Transient Lodging Tax looks to be flat to last year. The number of rooms rented is evenly split between TRIC and VC. There are 2 hotel properties at TRIC which have received financing for build-out and they should come online at the end of next year.
The Marketing Report is HERE. The Christmas on the Comstock marketing and promotion will start the week before Thanksgiving.
Under Special Events, the Christmas on the Comstock budget of $26,500 was approved. Based on the budget it will result in a $15.7k loss. There was a bit of discussion about the activities being done primarily as a community event and an attempt to bring people into town for a longer month-long Christmas season. The target is small children and those who want to “ Believe Again”.
The school buses will be used again for people transport, and there will be lots of activities like writing letters to Santa at the Roasting House, the Grinch activities, and Fire station will be open to visitors and have activities there.
There was a bit of discussion on how to get folks up here thru various discounts. I brought up the fact that TRIC has thousands and thousands of employees out there and asked if the VCTC has been marketing to them directly thru internal Corporate Communications at the companies. I also noted that giving those employees discounts might be an enticement to get them up here….especially for Christmas.
Jim Webster, Silverland Manager, agreed and said that they offer a 20% discount for skiers in an attempt to get that business from the Lake.
Lance said that they ( the Commissioners) have kept people from contacting the businesses directly…at their request. That the concept of providing discounts and access to those employees can be worked on.
Candace Wheeler, Executive Director of the Comstock Cemetery Foundation, gave an excellent presentation on their project to develop and offer an app-based walking tour and audio guide of the Cemetery. It is so much more than that so please look at her presentation and download the app at izi.travel HERE or go to “Silver Terrace Cemetery Tour, Virginia City”…HERE to go thru it on your computer/device without the app. The project had A LOT of participation by local folks….25 voices to be exact. See if you can recognize them!
The Pipers update is HERE. Great progress, lots of events….and revenues!
Katie Demuth, VCTC Marketing Manager, presented the Groups and Visitor Center update HERE. The number of visitors thru the bus tours will end the year at 4,089…this is in contrast to 2,747 for last year. Katie has been doing a lot of promotion and reaching out to the operators and the results show that it’s been successful.
Katie will be heading up the annual decorating activities at 10 am on Monday, November 18th. SHE NEEDS HELP! If you have some time please join her at 10am at the north end of town…there will be donuts!!
During Public Comment at the end of the meeting, Lance commented that it was great to have such good turnout and participation at this meeting.
Angelo requested that the VCTC put out a summary of the marketing and promotional activities that it does so the merchants can see what is being done to promote the town.