The organization tasked with drawing tourists to the Bangor area says it needs twice as much money as last year to launch a new marketing and promotional campaign — but city councilors said it can raise money in other ways, and questioned why neighboring towns don’t contribute more.
The Greater Bangor Convention and Visitors Bureau on Wednesday evening asked the city council to double its budget for the next fiscal year — from $60,350 to $120,000.
The nonprofit group, which also receives membership dues from area businesses and organizations, says the increasing funding would allow it to push a tourism marketing campaign and attend a greater number of regional and national trade shows where it could promote Bangor to travel agents, tour guides and groups that host large trade expos. Those expos could be held at the Cross Insurance Center, the Hollywood Casino and hotels.
“It’s new money coming into our community,” said Kerrie Tripp, executive director of the Greater Bangor CVB on Tuesday. “Those people are coming in and spending money at the Cross Insurance Center, at the hotels, at the restaurants, and at the shops.” The funding boost “helps us increase our growth. There’s a real market to catch.”
City councilors on Wednesday didn’t have a problem with boosting the CVB’s funding. But some councilors, including Gibran Graham and Chairman Joe Baldacci, said the extra funds could be covered by other means — like tacking 50 cent fees onto Cross Insurance Center ticket sales or raising CVB membership dues.
Brewer and Old Town each contribute just $500 annually to the CVB and Orono does not contribute at all, Tripp said after the meeting. Graham said he would like the surrounding towns with hotels and restaurants like Brewer, Old Town, and Orono, which also benefit from more tourists, to chip in as well.
“There doesn’t seem to be any good faith effort to increase the amount by other municipalities,” Graham said.
Councilors also wanted to wait to see how much it will receive in various revenues from the state before making a decision. The group’s budget from the city has been $60,350 each year since 2010.
In 2015, an estimated 4 million visitors traveled to the region spanning from Bangor to Moosehead Lake, Baxter State Park and Mount Katahdin — a 2.6 percent increase from 2014, according to statistics from the CVB. Those visitors spent $712 million on lodging, retail, dining, gas, recreation, and transportation that year, it said.
The group last year attended five trade shows, mostly with other groups, which were given a few minutes to pitch Maine and the region to numerous national and international tour operators and expo planners.
With the extra funding, CVB employees could attend seven different shows next year, mostly by themselves, allowing them to focus on promoting the region exclusively, Tripp said.