Holland Offers Limited Tourism Role

March 14, 2003
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HOLLAND- Directors at the Holland Area Convention & Visitors Bureau are willing to become involved in the regional “Michigan’s West Coast” tourism campaign on a limited basis, provided certain conditions are met.

While still not endorsing the campaign, the bureau’s board of directors this week voted unanimously to offer to have the organization handle inquiries received about Holland via West Coast marketing efforts. The board would then re-evaluate its involvement in April 2004.

The terms offered the backers of the West Coast campaign, spearheaded by the Grand Rapids-Kent County Convention & Visitors Bureau, are non-negotiable.

“We are opening the window, but we’re not revisiting this issue. This is what we decided and they can accept all of this or not,” Holland Area Convention & Visitors Bureau Executive Director Sally Laukitis said today.

“This is a business decision,” Laukitis said. “Our board has extensive experience in tourism marketing and did what they felt was best for this community at this point in time.”

The $1 million annual West Coast marketing campaign seeks to boost West Michigan’s tourism trade. It’s designed to promote Grand Rapids as a place for conventions and meetings and the entire region as a vacation destination.

Steve Wilson, president of the Grand Rapids-Kent County Convention & Visitors Bureau, was unavailable for comment this morning. Laukitis said that Wilson has indicated to her that the Grand Rapids-Kent County bureau’s executive committee would consider the offer next week.

The Holland Area bureau’s conditions for limited participation in 2003 include:

  • Receiving a link on the West Coast website

  • Holding two seats on a marketing committee proposed in response to the objections and lack of participation by three shoreline visitors bureaus. As proposed, each participating lakeshore bureau now fills one of the two seats on the marketing committee that are set aside for their communities, with the other seat going to the local mayor.

  • That the Holland Area CVB provides no monetary support for the campaign.

  • That all public references to the Holland Area CVB’s criteria be cleared through the bureau’s executive director.

  • That the Holland bureau’s decision to fulfill inquiries “in no way” implies an endorsement of the West Coast campaign.

The board of the Holland Area Bureau joined its counterparts in Grand Haven and Saugatuck earlier this year in withdrawing support and participation in the West Coast campaign, claiming its scope had changed from their original understanding of marketing Grand Rapids as a convention destination. The change in direction, they contend, was made without any input from participating bureaus.

The complaints centered on the change toward targeting the leisure travel market in the same midwestern cities where the lakeshore bureaus already promote their communities. Bureau directors worried that doing so would essentially create competition for themselves and that Grand Rapids was trying to build its convention and leisure travel business at the expense of the lakeshore communities.

The Grand Haven-Spring Lake Area Visitors Bureau bard of directors, acting in response to the proposed formation of the marketing committee, later reversed its position and agreed to fully participate in the campaign. Muskegon County’s tourism bureau also is a full particpant in the ‘West Coast’ campaign.

Holland’s withdrawal was based on the conflicting goals of its own marketing efforts and West Coast’s, Laukitis said. The Holland Area bureau now participates in nine separate cooperative promotions designed specifically to market the lakeshore as a destination for travelers, she said.

“Grand Rapids is not a lakeshore community,” Laukitis said.

Agreeing to limited participation for 2003 provides the Holland Area Bureau an opportunity to “observe the merits, benefits and accountability of the campaign in its first year,” Laukitis said. 

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