Misguided information

EDITOR: I would like to correct the misguided information that Mr. Kurt Lafy presented in his Letter to the Editor on Feb. 19 where he sided with two Bradford County commissioners on their decision to pull Bradford County away from the Endless Mountains Region.

First and foremost, it must be understood what taking Bradford County away from the Endless Mountains Visitors Bureau really means. Although Commissioner McLinko made it very clear at the beginning of last week's commissioners' meeting that taking over tourism promotion for the county is "all about the money", to those in the tourism industry as well as anyone who works, plays, or visits the county, the biggest concern is that this move will take Bradford County out of the Endless Mountains Region, which has become the well-known brand of Bradford, Sullivan, Susquehanna, and Wyoming counties as promoted by the visitors bureau for over 50 years. In fact, it is even on a map that dates back to the 1700s. The repercussions of removing Bradford Country from the Endless Mountains are - no pun intended - endless. To me, for this reason alone, the matter at hand needs to be addressed a bit more carefully because it really is not all about the money. It's about who we are.

Now, to Mr. Lafy's letter. I will quote what he wrote and then give the real facts.

"Bradford County sends between $400,000 and $600,000 annually to the EMVB while only an approximate 30 percent is returned. If we look at the smaller number, it means a lowly $120,000 comes back to Bradford County, while an astonishing $280,000 doesn't." The most room tax ever received annually from Bradford County was $409,527.85 and that was in 2012. At no time has the bureau ever received up to $600,000 from the county. The visitors bureau is not obligated to give any percentage back to a county for its own use. This was something the bureau wanted to do so each of the four counties could promote events and tourism projects they felt were important to them. When you look at all the projects funded with this amount, $120,000 is not a lowly number. It has done a great job in bringing people to the county's events, which in turn creates more revenue for area businesses. In regard to the "astonishing" $280,000 that is not given back to the county - yes it is. Bradford County is part of a region. The bureau makes sure that with every ad or promotional piece they do, each county is promoted. That means the $280,000 is spent on promoting tourism in Bradford County. The bureau does not see county lines. It sees a region. A region where each of the four counties complement each other to give visitors a complete vacation package with an array of fantastic things to see and do. I don't see how this is a "lopsided deal" as Mr. Lafy describes it. Advertising the region is done mostly outside of the four counties in order to bring visitors into the area and create overnight stays. And contrary to what Mr. Lafy believes, the bureau does support the local community by advertising in Bradford County newspapers (as well as the other three counties), attending events, participating in fund raisers and sponsorships, and the list goes "on and on".

"Well, you might ask if the EMVB spends money here by having an office in Bradford County. Nope." The location of the EMVB office is irrelevant. It has to be somewhere, correct? Having it in Sullivan, Susquehanna, or Wyoming county would not make it run any more effectively. The employees can work from anywhere. As a matter of fact, the bureau met with the Bradford County Commissioners and asked them if they would like a bureau office in their county. They said no. The important thing is where visitors, local and temporary residents, and the business traveler can find information about the area. Yes, there is a visitors center in the office in Tunkhannock, but there are also brochure kiosks throughout the four counties that bureau staff fills with visitor information on a regular basis year-round. There are nine of them in Bradford County alone.

"Let's suppose for a minute that maybe our newly-created Bradford County Tourism Board doesn't do any better than EMVB is doing for us. At the very least we'd still have $400,000 being pumped into Bradford County and Alparon Park would be correctly mapped as being in Troy, as opposed to EMVB's map, which shows it to be in Des Moines, Iowa." If the newly created tourism board doesn't do any better than the Endless Mountains Visitors Bureau does, it will be a sad day for Bradford County. Not only will the local businesses and community organizations be missing out on what the Endless Mountains could have been giving them, they have also lost the right to be a part of the Endless Mountains Region. Once again, this is important. Once Bradford County pulls away, it can no longer be known as the Endless Mountains and it will not be promoted as such. And yes, the county will still have $400,000, but do all in favor of this break from the visitors bureau realize that all that money must be spent on tourism and not whatever the commissioners feel like spending it on? As far as Mr. Lafy's comment about Alparon Park being mapped on the bureau's website as being in Des Moines, Iowa - this was brought to the bureau's attention recently by a loyal visitors bureau member. It was looked into and found to be a Google mapping error, not the bureau's. It is currently being worked on to remedy the problem.

And finally, one last correction to Mr. Lafy's letter. "Does it employ, at the very least, one Bradford County citizen? Not that I know of." If he did his homework, Mr. Lafy would have discovered…I am a Bradford County resident of 35 years. I also proudly work for the Endless Mountains Visitors Bureau and have for over 15 years.

I and the rest of the staff of the Endless Mountains Visitors Bureau work hard at doing the best we can to promote tourism in the Endless Mountains. We are always open to suggestions from anyone on how to improve on that. All anyone has to do is ask - including Commissioners McLinko and Miller. But they never have. They told us we are not doing anything wrong. I hope they don't try to fix something that is not broken. Tourism works best with partners - like Bradford, Sullivan, Susquehanna, and Wyoming counties have always done in promoting the Endless Mountains as a region. Like it should be.

Shelley A. McAndrew

Bradford County resident and staff member of the Endless Mountains Visitors Bureau