Letter to the Editor

EDITOR: I want to express my thoughts regarding two of the commissioners' decisions to terminate Bradford County's membership in the Endless Mountain's Visitor's Bureau (EMVB). Ironically, Mr. McLinko voted against the implementation of a room tax but evidently now sees it as a good thing!

As a former board member of EMVB, I would like to correct Mr. McLinko's statement that, "the decisions on how to market Bradford County are being made by an organization that is headquartered 60 miles away."

The decisions on how to market Bradford County are being made by the BOARD of DIRECTORS of the EMVB. The Board consists of several members from each of the four counties, which are APPOINTED by the county commissioners. One commissioner from each county also serves as a voting member on the Board. The members the commissioners appoint are representatives of businesses in the counties that are members of EMVB. Daryl Miller is the commissioner representing Bradford County. Attendance reports show he has only attended two (2) meetings, the last one in January 2013.

The EMVB promotes the Endless Mountains as a region throughout the state and beyond, from New York to Ohio to Philadelphia to New Jersey to Virginia and more, even Canada! Also, as a state recognized tourism promotion agency, the Bureau has access to the brochure racks in state Visitor's Centers. This allows for businesses and events in Bradford County to have wide exposure to travelers from all over the country. For an individual county to do this much promotion effectively on their own would be difficult without hiring several more staff. Where will our county events and organizations display their promotion materials? They will no longer have access to EMVB brochure racks.

To promote the region as a whole is a much more effective way of putting "heads in beds," which is a goal of EMVB. Promoting a "region" offers travelers much more to see and do making them more likely to stay more than a day to take in events and attractions in the region which in turn equates to increased revenue for the entire region. EMVB is a recognized "Brand." Mr. McLinko who never joined EMVB, has often been heard to say that tourists never stopped at his restaurant and that this county has a reputation as having nothing to offer tourists because of all the gas drilling. Is that the "Brand" we have to work with now?

Promoting one end of the county to the other, as Mr. McLinko has offered as an example, does not bring in new revenue from outside the county for our businesses nor will it accomplish the "heads in beds" to generate more room tax dollars.

I have personally helped at the EMVB booth in events both within the region and outside this state and I have seen first-hand how many people are reached through their promotion work. My family also runs a business and we have seen the effectiveness and benefits of membership in EMVB.

Bradford County currently has its own Room Tax Committee also appointed by the commissioners. Mr. McLinko sits on that committee and attends sporadically. That committee uses 30 percent of the room tax money collected in the county for county promotion as well as for awarding grants to non-profits in the county, which can be used to assist in their promotion efforts.

Of the Room Tax dollars collected here in 2013, Bradford County has 30 percent or, $121,370.12 dedicated exclusively to this county and has so far awarded $98,947.00 of it. EMVB uses most of the remaining 70 percent to also promote Bradford County as part of the Endless Mountains Region.

Keep in mind that room tax dollars are restricted funds to be used for tourism promotion purposes only and not a "windfall" for the county general fund.

My suggestion is to propose that perhaps Bradford County have more representation on the EMVB board, restructuring the board membership to be more reflective of the amount of room tax dollars each county collects. This could be adjusted annually or as directors' terms expire.

Janet Lewis

Towanda