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Chamber speaks out against lodging industry plan

VIC
The rush for approval of the structure, budget and transition plan for Visit Pensacola, the new entity created by the lodging industry, to assume control of $5.5 million of tourism development tax dollars has hit another obstacle.

The Greater Pensacola Chamber has sent a letter to Interim County Administrator George Touart making it clear that its board has not approved the proposal presented by hotel lobbyist Ron Ellington to the Escambia Board of County Commissioners on Monday.

In the letter signed by Chairman-elect Gary Huston and Chamber President Jerry Maygarden, the chamber leaders stated, “The plan under review is not the Chamber’s proposal. We do not oppose the Commission’s desire to transfer responsibility for tourism administration to a stand-alone public-private body dedicated solely for that purpose. We have not, however, agreed to support the terms of the proposal under consideration by your Board.”

Moreover, they wrote that the chamber has not been asked to provide input to the proposed management model or governance structure.

“We are not close to resolving issues related to the distribution of assets and the transfer of duties,” they stated. “We must restate our primary concern: There is not enough time available between now and October 1 to enact an orderly transition.”

They described the rush as “reckless.”

Huston and Maygarden specifically criticized the business plan for not offering a “path to improvement” and only being a “replica of the Chamber’s current activities.” They also questioned the make up of the Visit Pensacola board for not reflecting “all elements of the industry or the community.”

They stated, “There is no reason why a plan couldn’t be prepared that includes representation by area attractions, tourism tax collectors, as well as the minority community.”

The chamber is recommending to the BCC that it grant up to 90-days for the transition. They are requesting the commissioners appoint a task force to resolve all the transition issues and draft a governance plan for approval by Jan. 1, 2014.

That task force will operate in the Sunshine.

Read touart tourism transition 9-18-2013