Fusion of the Baker County Chamber of Commerce and the Visitor and Convention Bureau makes sense.
And so does the Baker City Councils decision to keep its portion of the transient room tax for now rather than give it to the newly formed entity, Marketing Baker County.
The potential cost savings and increased efficiencies of MBC are as yet unproven, but could be manifold.
Once the new operation is up and running and has a demonstrable track record, then board members will have a way to say to the council, More dollars will equal more services like these.
The councils decision does not preclude MBC from pursuing its proposal for a county-wide version of the transient room tax, although it does complicate how a county-wide tax would overlay the citys existing tax.
Nor does it stop MBC from building from the existing Vandamp;C and chamber.
A key component will be the new marketing plan, currently under development. In the past, marketing of Baker County has been at times fractured and without fiscal accountability, culminating in a $10,000 shortfall discovered during a transition in staff.. While a plan must be fluid enough to allow staff to seize opportunities, it needs a framework to guide the staff.
This doesnt mean the transient room tax shouldnt be used for what it was originally intended to market Baker County and to increase tourism. At present, the citys portion supplies part of the budget of the BEGIN and community development programs.
But greater efficiency is about more than greater funding. When MBC returns to the council in search of money, wed suggest a quick quiz:
1. Who are the travel and outdoors editors at the Tri-City Herald? The Idaho Statesman? The Oregonian? What are their deadlines for news for their sections? And who are the news directors for radio and TV stations in Boise, the Tri-Cities and Portland? At the very least, these organizations have travel and event calendars to fill; at best, we might interest them in a story on a local attraction, festival or personality.
2. What free, cooperative marketing opportunities exist? How many phone calls and e-mails have been made to explore them?
3. How do local attractions cross-market, and can MBC help? Does a visitor to the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, Historic Baker City or the Dredge learn about the other two?
Tourism promotion doesnt just need money, it needs marketing.
And there is a difference there worth exploring.