Isle Of Palms Chamber Of Commerce Seeks To Double As Destination Marketing Organization

By Brian Sherman for The Island Eye News

The Isle of Palms Chamber of Commerce would like to serve as both a business association and a destination marketing organization. IOP sends more than $750,000 a year to its current DMO, the Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, money that is collected as part of the state’s 2% tax on shortterm rentals and must be spent to convince out-of-towners to spend a night or more in the area. In responding to a question from Accommodations Tax Advisory Committee Chair Ray Burns at the committee’s April 7 meeting – where the Chamber was requesting $10,000 in ATAX funds to help pay for a website – Chamber President Katrina Limbach said the organization’s long-term intention is to become IOP’s DMO. She emphasized, however, that she doesn’t think the Chamber should necessarily replace the CVB. “The best way forward would be to have that destination marketing organization component but doing so with a wonderful supportive relationship with the CVB,” Limbach said. “I see the shortcomings from the Isle of Palms’ perspective in the things that maybe the CVB hasn’t focused on. But I see what they’ve done as a regional destination, and that’s important. I think that going forward with a good partnership with them is key.” Limbach said later that there’s no reason why IOP can’t have two DMOs – the Chamber and the CVB. “It would be doing a disservice to take all the ATAX funds away from them from a regional standpoint and also an IOP standpoint,” Limbach said. “The better Charleston does, the better we do. A partnership is the best way forward.” According to Limbach, becoming a DMO was not in the original plans when the idea of forming a chamber was discussed last November. 

After doing some research, however, she learned that there are several hybrid organizations that serve as both a business organization and a DMO. Folly Beach broke off its relationship with the CVB in 2004 and formed its own DMO but later mended fences with the regional marketing organization. The town now sends a small part of its ATAX money to the CVB – $42,200 in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2021. Last year, the IOP ATAX Committee asked the IOP Council to consider forming a DMO, but the Council has not taken any action on that request. Limbach said the CVB has agreed to pay part of the cost of the Chamber’s website. At its April 7 meeting, the IOP ATAX Committee voted to table the Chamber’s request for $10,000 from the city’s 65% ATAX fund. Two members who later resigned from the committee, David Nelson and Sally Muhlig, voted against the motion to table the request, while Doug Truslow, Ray Burns and Glenda Nemes supported the measure. “I want to think about it for a while,” Truslow said, after explaining that he wasn’t certain that, under state law, the funds could be spent to establish a website. “I’m concerned about creating another CVB – allocating money to the Chamber of Commerce that we would have no input into how the money is spent and where it’s spent,” Burns added. “I’d like to know what the end game is before we start putting in seed money.” 

According to City Administrator Desiree Fragoso, in the past, “The city has supported through the 65% fund website type of initiatives.” “I don’t think the city has interpreted a website as part of the operations, necessarily,” Fragoso said. “But we can certainly get some additional advice on that.” At the same meeting, the Committee voted not to approve the CVB’s fiscal 2023 budget. 

Nemes and Truslow voted no, while Nelson and Burns voted in the affirmative. Muhlig had already resigned and left the meeting. Nelson and Malcolm Burgis gave up their seats on the committee the following day. 

The Committee also approved $10,000 in ATAX funds for the LOWVELO Bike Ride, which is scheduled for Nov. 5. The event raises funds for cancer research.

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