Kingston will fold its tourism office and hand over the operation to the county in a move that County Executive Mike Hein and Mayor Shayne Gallo say will not only save the city money, but allow it to benefit from a stepped-up effort at the county level to promote tourism in the region.
At a press conference held Wednesday afternoon at the city (soon to be county) tourism office on Lower Broadway, Hein touted the merger saying that the city would no longer be forced to choose between funding its tourism promotion efforts or channeling the money into essential services.
“By changing the rules, we no longer have to make that choice,” said Hein. “We can get less expensive and better at the same time.”
Under the terms of the agreement, which will need approval from the county legislature and the Kingston Common Council, Kingston will pay the county $30,000 annually. The money would be specifically directed for the promotion of Kingston by the county’s tourism office. The mayor also would receive an appointment to the county’s tourism advisory council. The county, meanwhile, would moved into the Lower Broadway office and gift shop, a move that Hein said would save the county $15,000 in yearly rent currently paid for the tourism department’s Uptown offices while expanding the office’s visibility with a new location near the visitor-frequented Strand.
The city would also save $40,000 by cutting current Tourism Director Kate Cook from the payroll. Hein said that Cook would not be laid off, but would not be put to work in the county tourism office either. Instead, Hein said, Cook would be put to work for the county once a position became available that “matches her skill set perfectly.”
Gallo praised Cook’s efforts on behalf of the city but said that with dozens of events to promote annually and an anemic budget (the office’s advertising budget for 2012 stands at just $100) the office lacked the means to effectively reach out and draw tourism dollars to Kingston. Gallo said with little hope of boosting the department’s budget line in these hard economic times, the tourism office was “ripe for consolidation.”
Slideshow image: Mike Hein and Shayne Gallo at Wednesday’s announcement. (Photo by Dan Barton)