Tourism is the main economy for Isle of Palms and represents billions of dollars in investment money and millions in revenues for our community. I am not speaking about the beach which is owned by the state and always open to all. I am speaking of our local economy and the health of our community. We can hire a tourism manager with ATAX money. Here are some items to be included in the job description: This person could track ATAX spending and work with, not for, our DMO. Manager could work with “beach education” employees, survey residents about tourism needs, research new project ideas, work on branding the island, liaise with ATAX Advisory Committee, institute a wider grant program, prepare budgets, keep up with state program changes and legislation, work with parks recreation and tourism department, stay up to date on short term rental subjects and current trends in tourism, manage events, act as island concierge, interface with media, receive receipts from grant program spending and track along with treasurer, manage projects and even do public relations for the island, (IOP may have to pay for this part if not just tourists related.) And most important would guide our DMO how we need and want promotion money spent. They would source and work with consultants and research groups in various hospitality and tourism areas.
This person should be completely independent of the Charleston Area CVB with no history with them. The manager should have no connection to the hotel industry on our island or in our region, which is only a small part of our economy but should fairly represent the short term rental industry as well. If hospitality tax money or city funds are used as well, the person selected should be able to represent all without prejudice or bias. This would supplant the current system of city administrator involvement and free the city manager for other duties just for the IOP community. The Advisory Committee should be elevated and respected for oversight and recommendations for which they have voted. And city council would ultimately be responsible as with all city employees for direction not included in job description but would not disregard Advisory Committees expertise. The mayor in our weak mayor/council system is only one of nine votes and doesn’t have authority to “manage or direct” this “tourism manager” but can certainly work with them in a “ceremonial” capacity. This would give IOP someone more expert in these issues. This person could manage our new cultural arts center or our local arts and craft gallery.
Imagine how it would free up the rest of city staff for managing the island’s other services and capital projects. Considering that tourism dollars provide much to our economy and more than 20% of our direct revenues (this doesn’t even count the property tax revenues STR owners/ overnight accommodation owners pay or hospitality tax contribution, or license fees they bring in or possibly symbiotic services contributions such as beach chair rental companies or county contributions from tourism dollars or additional state revenues and grants we could be receiving! Considering all this, we need a separate city staff manager just for tourism! I hope the residents of the island will all speak to their council people asking for and supporting this new staff position and make it happen either in this year’s budget or next fiscal year.
Actually the money is available this year because there are so many “over budgeted” categories in ATAX 65% pot plus we could move toward receiving some of the 30%, that have budget overages. Speak out and thanks to John Bogosian and Scott Pierce for inspiring this idea to the surface as it has been percolating in my head for a while.
Isle of Palms