Branson’s TCED Board must earn the benefit of the doubt

When Bob McDowell was running for the position of Branson Alderman in 2007 he said, the leadership of city government had to “earn back the benefit of the doubt position” from the community. For what it is worth, based on what he personally has witnessed and been involved with this week and what he believes has gone on behind closed doors for over the last three years, an Ole Seagull would suggest that the Branson/Lakes Area Tourism Community Enhancement District Board (TCED) has to earn back the benefit of the doubt position from the stakeholders, the Branson Lakes Area CVB (CVB), paid staff and volunteers of the CVB, and the tax payers who authorized the tax.

The CVB has been doing the marketing for the Branson area for the TCED for the last three years under a contract that expires on Sep. 30. The contract has a provision that provides the TCED with the flexibility to renew the contract for up to another three years without going out for other bids (RFP).

A major agenda item for the TCED’s April 20 meeting was to “Discuss marketing RFP options for Fiscal 2010.” As part of that process, the TCED was presented with letters from two major stakeholder groups, “The League of Branson Theatre Owners and Show Producers” and the “Branson Lakes Area Lodging Association,” expressing their great satisfaction with the marketing efforts of the CVB and encouraging the TCED to extend the contract.

In addition, Dan Lennon, Vice President Marketing & Public Relations, made a presentation summing up the results of the CVB marketing efforts for the years 2006 and 2008. In spite of the challenges, all the following areas were up from 2005, the year before the CVB marketing program went into effect, Rate of First Time Visitors, City of Branson Sales Tax, City of Branson Tourism Tax, TCED Tourism Tax, Spending Per Party, Average Length of Stay, Overall Visitations, Family Visitations, and Overall Visitations. Amazingly, this was done, according to the report, at a Marketing Cost Per Visitor of $.92 as opposed to $2.41 for Las Vegas and $2.20 for Wisconsin Dells.

What was the reaction of the TCED regarding the CVB contract extension? Among other things, a comments by a TCED member indicating the CVB had packed the audience, another comment by a TCED member, blurted out to the Chairman during Lennon’s presentation, that they had to leave by 4:00 p.m., comments that things needed to be coordinated with the city of Branson and the passage of a motion that had something to do with the TCED having its financial oversight committee attend a future meeting.

Having sat there and not clearly understood the motion the Ole Seagull wrote the TCED asking for the specific wording of the motion they had approved. He received a reply from the TCED’s Chairman stating the wording would not be forthcoming because “It is possible when the board reads the minutes that the motion Jan lists is different from what board members believe they voted on. That is why the minutes and motions are not final till the Board approves them. Please, do not try to quote us till we have approved. We want to be accurate and follow procedure.”

To an Ole Seagull the TCED’s actions at the meeting and Akers reply represent the attitude of the TCED toward the CVB, the stakeholders, and the general public. An attitude that it is their game and they will play it the way they want, how they want, and when they want. To him it seems that they are failing to realize the potential impact of their actions, or inactions, on the marketing of Branson and its stakeholders, the people who have invested their lives and money in their businesses and all the others who rely directly or indirectly on those businesses for their income.

An Ole Seagull would suggest that if the TCED wants the benefit of the doubt they are going to have to earn it back. In his opinion, their actions this week have done nothing in that regard.

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