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Newly formed visitors bureau lays foundation at 1st meeting

POSTED: July 31, 2014 1:31 a.m.

The board of directors of the newly formed Gainesville Convention and Visitors Bureau Authority on Wednesday approved an agreement that will fund the city’s new tourism arm.

Charged with promoting tourism, encouraging development and hosting events, the CVB’s budget this year will be supported by $424,000 in hotel/motel tax revenue.

The city generated about $697,000 in hotel/motel tax revenue in the 2014 fiscal year, up from $587,000 in 2013.

Grier Todd, general manager of the Fairfield Inn & Suites, has been appointed chairman of the board, which was meeting for the first time.

“I’m looking forward to getting this board up and running,” he said.

Richard Labriola, general manager of Hilton Garden Inn, was named vice chairman, while Sheri Hooper, executive director of Interactive Neighborhood for Kids, was named secretary.

The seven-person board also includes Morgan House, the newly minted manager of the Lake Lanier Olympic Venue; Mike Azotea, general manager of Buffalo Wild Wings; Gainesville Parks and Recreation Director Melvin Cooper; and City Manager Kip Padgett.

The board will meet the fourth Wednesday of each month.

The move to create the new CVB followed the closing of the Georgia Mountains Center last year, which hosted conventions and trade shows.

The shuttering of the facility freed more hotel/motel tax revenue, which city officials said would primarily fund the new CVB.

However, state lawmakers stripped language from a bill that would have given the CVB power to issue bonds, purchase property and hire personnel.

CVB officials said they were looking forward to promoting events in the downtown square, at Lake Lanier and elsewhere in Gainesville.

The Lake Lanier Convention and Visitors Bureau, meanwhile, reports occupancy rates and revenue per room at local hotels are increasing.

Hall County ranks 12th in the state in tourism-related spending.

CVB officials said plans are in the works to establish way-finding signage throughout the city, including along gateway corridors and in the downtown area, highlighting local attractions and things to do.

Plans are also in the works to expand walking tours throughout the city.

For example, a new brochure guides visitors through Alta Vista Cemetery, spotlighting the famous individuals laid to rest there.

“I know our staff is very excited about this new venture,” said Mayor Danny Dunagan.


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