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County bankrolls tourism brochure

Island County Commissioners decided Monday to proceed full steam ahead to fund a variety of tourism-enhancement efforts through revenues from the 2 percent hotel-motel lodging tax.

The total grant package was for $84,210, with the largest single allotment of $29,000 going to tourism promotion programs sponsored by the Island District Economic Development Council.

The Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce received $11,000 for their marketing and tourism programs.

Sharon Hart, the EDC’s executive director, said the EDC money is earmarked for use by the Island County Chamber Coalition, which is focusing on reinvigorating tourism on the island after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and resulting slump in travel.

“We’re very pleased,” Hart said of the grant. “It’s a tremendous show of support by the commissioners. I think the timing is really appropriate.”

Hart said that the effect following Sept. 11 on the local hospitality industry was “pretty devastating,” and that the recent funding will go toward various advertising campaigns that promoted Whidbey Island tourism.

“We’re trying to do our part to help the situation as much as we can,” said Hart.

Loretta Martin, Langley Chamber of Commerce director, said this is the first time in five years the commissioners have fully funded the Coalition’s request.

“It’s really forward-thinking,” Martin said of the commissioners’ decision. The money is primarily used in national print advertising, she said. “We got the budget we asked for. We can do a good national campaign.”

The Coalition’s funding is for 2002. After that, a separate, continuing county-wide tourism promotion effort will be funded by an additional 2 percent lodging tax now being collected county-wide. A marketing firm to lead that efort is being sought, Martin said.

Whidbey’s chambers also received individual funding from the 2 percent tax apportionment announced Monday, which will allow the offices to stay open and handle tourist inquiries. The Central Whidbey Chamber of Commerce received the most at $14,990.

Heidi Kuzina, director of tourism and events for the Oak Harbor Chamber, said the $11,000 her organization will receive is about what was expected and will help with several projects. “We’re working on a new brochure,” she said. “We need a nice lure brochure.”

The “lure brochure” would be a colorful, pictorial publication aimed at attracting people to the island. Langley and Freeland have such brochures, Kuzina said, but Oak Harbor does not. The Oak Harbor Chamber provides an informational brochure, but it’s not designed to attract people to the area. “We’re working on a real professional looking piece,” she said.

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