Tourism Trends

Madison tourism gears for
challenging year on tight budget

By Don Ward

(February 2011) – A 7 percent decline in Jefferson County, Ind., innkeepers tax last year has resulted in less money available for tourism operations this year. The Jefferson County Board of Tourism, the tax collection and dispersion entity, cut its annual contribution to the Madison Area Convention and Visitors Bureau by $4,000 in January as a result of the lower collections.

Linda Lytle

Linda Lytle

The MACVB board already had met in December and approved its 2011 operating budget of $365,311 but at its January meeting had to vote again on a revised budget reflecting the lower numbers. CVB Executive Director Linda Lytle was forced to cut the budget for various activities to accommodate the change, then present the new $358,500 budget to the board, which voted its approval.
“The JCBT did not give us the amount we wanted, but they agreed to revisit the issue in March after we see how innkeepers taxes do in the first quarter of this year and they might adjust their contribution,” Lytle said. “With all the construction projects going on right now in the area, we anticipate innkeepers taxes to go up in midweek this year.”
Those construction projects include the Milton-Madison Bridge, I.K.E.C. power plant expansion and the King’s Daughters’ Hospital & Health Services campus – all of which are expected to increase occupancy at area hotels.
The JCBT’s contribution toward the tourism budget is $247,000 this year, still up from $241,000 last year. The tourism budget derives its other income from special events and festivals ($81,000), the city’s contribution ($9,000), the county’s contribution ($1,500) and miscellaneous income ($20,000). The three festivals that operate separately under the CVB’s nonprofit umbrella – Ohio River Valley Folk Festival, Madison Ribberfest and Madison Chautauqua – have their own planning committees, maintain their own operational budgets and keep their annual profits in a separate bank account. They pay the CVB board for its services accordingly: Folk ($5,000), Ribberfest ($10,000) and Chautauqua ($6,000).
Lytle said she would like to have more from the Folk Festival but that the event does not yet generate enough profit to do so. The Chautauqua just increased its contribution to the CVB this year by $1,000. But the event generally breaks even.
Each festival also pays its own committee chair but the salaries are reflected in the CVB’s operational budget because they are considered contract employees. The Folk Festival director stipend was recently increased from $6,000 to $8,400. The Ribberfest director received a 16.4 percent raise from $16,320 last year to $19,000 this year. The Chautauqua coordinator remained the same at $26,500.
The Nights Before Christmas Candlelight Tour of Homes is operated internally by the CVB staff. Last year, the event only generated $5,575 in profit for the CVB, down from 2009. The CVB keeps half of the revenue for its services.
The budget reflects a 3 percent raise for CVB staff and a marketing budget of $111,000, of which $23,000 is spent on the annual tourism brochure alone.
Both the JCBT and the CVB boards meet separately on the fourth Monday of each month, and in January, the CVB board also holds its day-long strategic planning retreat. The JCBT board has invited CVB board members to its Feb. 21 meeting to discuss better ways of working together.
Some new board members were introduced at the January meeting and new officer appointments were approved. This year’s board president is John Staicer of Historic Madison Inc.; vice president is Rene Stephens of Holiday Inn Express; treasurer is Jenny Eggenspiller of the City of Madison staff. The remaining nine board members are Kevin Watkins of Pets Doc; Peter Woodburn of Woodburn, Kyle & Co.; Bob Schoenstein of the Madison City Council; and three new board members in Joe Craig of Craig Toyota; Nathan Montoya of Village Lights Bookstore; and Karen Hinton of Clifty Inn. The newcomers replaced outgoing board members Lucy Dattilo, A.J. Mistry and Jim Crone.
In other Madison tourism news:
• In the wake of the recent death of Folk Festival chairman John Walburn, the Folk Festival committee received 11 applicants for the job, interviewed one candidate and hired Madison musician Greg Ziesemer. He and his wife, Kriss, are scheduled to perform on Sunday of this year’s three-day festival. The CVB board approved the hire at its January meeting.
• The Folk Festival has hired most of its entertainment lineup for the May 20-22 event. The list of performers includes Mickey Clark, Andrienne Young and Little Sadie, The Red Stick Ramblers, The Wiyos, Paul Thorn, David Bromberg Quartet and Carrie Newcomer. The committee is planning to add a craft beer tent and competition.
• Madison Ribberfest director Kathy Ayers reported an estimated 20 percent increase in wristband sales last summer and an estimated crowd of 13,000 – up from about 11,000 the previous year. With the festival marking its 10-year anniversary in 2011, some changes are in store. The balloon glow and races will be dropped and in its place will be a 10K race and possibly a microbrew tent. The committee also is considering raising the cost of admission on Friday night and increasing security between the VIP tents on the hill and the general admission areas. This year’s Madison Ribberfest is Aug. 19-20.

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