EDITORIAL: Yet another tourism study

Oak Harbor residents seem rightly skeptical about the city council’s decision to spend $49,000 on yet another study of how to lure tourists to the city.

As Priscilla Heistad, chamber of commerce director, pointed out, already several tourism studies are collecting dust on city bookshelves. In addition, the city recently raised the lodging tax to participate in an islandwide tourism promotion effort.

Why we need another tourism study at this point was never made clear. Downtown is home to a number of interesting new businesses, but little has changed physically. There are no significant new public amenities, attractions or facilities.

And still, the council members opted to spend $49,000 for another study. A significant part of the reason seems to be their faith in Roger Brooks, whose Destination Development, Inc., was awarded the contract for a tourism development and marketing plan. Judging by council members’ effusive praise of Brooks, he did a heck of a selling job to the council. Whether he can do the same to tourists is doubtful. His company sought the islandwide tourism promotion contract but didn’t even finish among the finalists.

Public servants sometimes forget that they’re spending real money, since it seems to materialize out of thin air. It represents the work of others, not their own work, so it seems free. But to most people, $49,000 is a lot of money, and it represents the taxes paid by a large number of citizens. The money could have been used for physical improvements to downtown, put aside in the fund for the future dock, or used for badly-needed maintenance projects. Throwing it away on another tourism study is not the right thing to do.

Now that the decision is made, we can only hope that Brooks comes up with an affordable plan that results in a program of real tourism enhancement projects. If not, perhaps the city council should find another $50,000 to pay a consultant to actually read all the studies we’ve already paid for.

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