Superior is looking to make changes to its hotel-motel tax ordinance that are small but would have a big impact on how tourism promotion is managed in the city.
The city's Finance Committee is recommending the Council consider creating a tourism commission to manage the 70% of hotel-motel tax revenue designated for tourism promotion.
The city retains 30% of the tax collected.
Currently, that 70% is managed under contract with Travel Superior with designated carve outs to support the city's tourism development fund and Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center.
After talking to League of Wisconsin Municipality’s deputy director, Curt Witynski, Mayor Jim Paine learned Superior handles designated tourism dollars differently than most other cities in Wisconsin.
Paine proposed creating a six-member committee to act as Superior’s tourism entity. That panel, which would consist of the Chamber of Commerce president, the Development Association director, two Council members and two citizens, would be appointed by the mayor. The committee would meet a minimum of four times a year to determine how Superior’s designated tourism promotion dollars should be spent.
“If I understand this correctly, the main difference is right now we give it to Travel Superior,” Councilor Brent Fennessey said. “They do a broad marketing campaign to try to attract visitors not specific to any one event, any one project.”
Paine said the commission would have the ability to contract with an organization like Travel Superior, but it would have greater discretion than the city has right now. He said while the city can only give that 70% to a tourism entity, the commission would have the ability to support projects like a convention center or provide grants that support tourism.
“If we move to the commission route, we could potentially be leaving that to the commission, where now it’s going to get political,” Fennessey said.
He added he was hesitant to make the change when the city already has an entity that provides a broad marketing campaign and might focus resources on a specific project.
“Wherever people are, there’s politics,” Councilor Tylor Elm said.
“To me, it provides significantly more oversight in that these people have to be appointed annually and confirmed by the Council,” Paine said.
While the commission would be obligated to engage in promotion within the community, Travel Superior is not, he said.
Fennessey made a motion that the Finance Committee keep the current hotel-motel tax ordinance in place rather than adopt the proposed changes. The motion failed by a 2-1 vote.
“If we’re doing a terrible job, we should be informed of that,” said John Conley, treasurer of the Chamber Board, which oversees Travel Superior. “We haven’t been led to believe that is the case overall.”
Councilor Jack Sweeney, chairman of the Finance Committee, said not doing the job one is contracted to do is only one reason for changing how an organization is funded by the city.
Travel Superior’s current contract expires Dec. 31.
Sweeney and Elm voted in favor of creating the tourism commission and sending it to the Council for final approval.
The Council will consider the change when it meets Sept. 7.