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Slight boost sought for communications, tourism budget

POSTED: March 16, 2014 12:25 a.m.

The Gainesville Communications and Tourism Department, which includes Main Street Gainesville, the public information office, TV 18, and tourism and trade office, has requested a slight increase in funding for fiscal year 2015.

Gainesville spokeswoman Catiel Felts said the department is asking for $440,000 next year, up from $438,000 due to minor cost of living adjustments in salary made this year. Funding will come from the city’s hotel/motel tax revenue, Felts said, which is on pace this fiscal year to eclipse the high water mark of more than $587,000 from 2013.

The department has spent this year marketing events in Gainesville, driving increased traffic to the city’s website, and purchasing and implementing equipment to make the government channel, TV 18, available on AT&T U-verse.

For the 2015 fiscal year, the department is hoping to ramp up its social media presence, update its website and create a video highlighting the work of Main Street Gainesville, which promotes the downtown square.

Meanwhile, tourism officials are pinning their hopes for the next fiscal year on a bill in the Georgia General Assembly to create the Gainesville Convention and Visitors Bureau Authority.

The new authority would replace the existing tourism and trade office and set the stage for better promotions of events and the ability to contract for conventions, officials said.

The bill passed the state House earlier this week, and the Senate read and referred it last Thursday. The last day to pass the bill is this Thursday, when the legislative session is scheduled to end.

Tourism efforts have paid off in recent years, according to new figures released by the Georgia Department of Economic Development. In 2012, tourism in Hall County supported more than 2,400 jobs, generated $252 million in direct spending and created nearly $7.5 million in local tax revenue.

Next year, Felts said she hopes to erect way-finding signage around the city to direct visitors to points of interest, as well as create a visitor’s pass good for one year at local attractions.

“Things are going really well,” Felts said. “We’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing.”


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