Tourism slashes allocations budget

TDA officials opt for “less is more” approach

By Kevin Spradlin

Related coverage
* May 12: County tourism to seek additional personnel
* May 7: ‘I promise you it will work’
* April 14: TDA taps Pruett as tourism director
* Feb. 11: TDA adopts tourism plan
* Jan. 22: ‘A playground for the creative class’

ROCKINGHAM — By giving less, officials figure, they’d be able to offer much more in return.

So members of the Richmond County Tourism Development Authority board of directors voted Tuesday morning to cut allocations to Richmond County attractions by 41 percent for the Fiscal year 2016 budget, which begins July 1. The TDA allocated $200,000 the current year; the FY 2016 amount was reduced to $118,000. The figure will be equally divided between city and county hotel/motel tax revenue.

TDA_Logo-2015The difference will go towards paying for a newly created position of a part-time worker at the Visitors Center. The former depot, located at East Broad Avenue and South Hancock Street, serves as the official home of county tourism and the office of Tourism Director Kelly Pruett.

The budget was unanimously approved by the board members present for Tuesday’s public hearing and public meeting.

Pruett began her new job on April 16 and instantly recognized the need for a second person in the office. After all, the more Pruett’s out of the office talking to stakeholders — representatives from regional tourism and local hotels and attractions — the more successful she’ll be. But someone still needs to be at the Visitors Center to greet guests and answer questions.

Though a vacancy has not yet been announced, Pruett said she envisions the new person working between 15 and 20 hours each week, starting at noon or 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. at an hourly rate of up to $15 per hour.

Payroll expenses, including employee benefits, are expected to be 37.2 percent of the total $250,000 budget.

Monty Crump, Rockingham city manager, said the TDA also plans to spend less in advertising in the coming year — $18,000, down from $42,000. Crump said he and Pruett believe the lesser effort there will be countered by a number of interactive kiosks that are to be placed around Richmond County. Kiosks are to be placed at the Rockingham Dragway, the Rankin Museum of American Heritage in Ellerbe, the Hamlet Depot and Museum and Discovery Place KIDS, among other locations. Pruett said Richmond County will be the first in the state to have kiosks placed at more than a couple of locations in its jurisdiction.

Click image for larger version of FY 2016 budget for Richmond County Tourism Development Authority.

Click image for larger version of FY 2016 budget for Richmond County Tourism Development Authority.

Pruett also said the TDA needs to pay for the new wayfaring signs. Pruett said she expected to receive estimates for both were expected sometime Tuesday afternoon.

Pruett said the TDA was “technically” not giving less money, but are aiming to spread how the money is spent to best promote all area attractions.

“We’re doing so much more advertising for them,” Pruett said. “I think they’re going to get more bang for the buck.”

Pruett said she’s noticed many local attractions have stockpiles of not-yet distributed fliers. Such an approach, she said, is “not as effective.”


Filed in: Arts & Entertainment, Latest Headlines, News, Outdoors, Region, Rockingham

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