Peggy Heiser’s proposed budget/marketing campaign was approved Aug. 17 by the Tourist Development Council.
It was a good year for Flagler tourism, according to a presentation Peggy Heiser, vice president of tourist development for the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce & Affiliates, gave to the Tourist Development Council Aug. 17. And that means the staff deserves a raise, she said.
Heiser’s presentation was a review of 2011’s fiscal year achievements, as well as a summary of goals moving forward.
Year to date, through June, bed tax collections have gone up 43.47%, Heiser said. Average hotel occupancy increased 7.6%; average per-room revenue increased 1%; demand increased 19.4%.
Web traffic on www.VisitFlagler.org also went up 60%, she added; social media followers increased 80%, and TV, radio and online exposure expanded across the board.
Heiser’s only noted decrease was in average daily hotel rates, which fell 6.5%.
“So let’s talk about next year,” she said, introducing a 2012 campaign proposal which fell closely in line with the prior year’s plan.
“We’re going to stay focused,” she said. “(The campaign) is working — why would we change anything?”
In line with TDC’s strategic plan, launched in 2010, Heiser proposed an $800,000 budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
Of the total, $362,210 is allocated for advertising, $238,600 for staff and fulfillment (including salaries, with raises, for Heiser, two full-time employees and one part-time worker), $96,000 for multmedia development, $60,000 for special events grants, $31,400 for research and $11,790 for product development.
Expansions to the county visitor center, in the amount of about $15,000, were also proposed.
The center, located in the Flagler Beach Museum, requires one part-time liaison to stay open seven days a week, making it eligible for state grants. Additional brochures and display racks will be integrated, as well.
“On the weekends, the beach is where most of the traffic is,” Heiser said, in a follow-up interview. But the center won’t be city-specific.
“My message is a county message,” she said.
Heiser also proposed a revamp of the Visit Flagler website; new destination videos; a continuation of 2008’s visitor study; and the hiring of a consultant to beef up multimedia development.
Then the board responded, focusing in on Heiser’s proposed raises (Hesier’s raise would be an 8% incremental increase, she said, while her employees would be 6% each).
“I cannot support, as good a job as you’ve all done … a raise,” said board member Bob DeVore. “I think we’re sending the wrong signal … Even though you’ve done a wonderful job, I just can’t support that much of an increase.”
The rest of board felt differently.
When Jeff Connor first saw the raise amount, he worried it was too small.
“All I see is growth,” he said. “I think that her staff is beyond reproach in what they do. I think they specifically are irreplaceable. The loss of them would be at the detriment of our entire county as a destination.”
Most government workers haven’t seen raises in three years, board member and Flagler Beach City Commissioner Steve Settle said. But TDC staff has earned them.
“I don’t think there’s anything more important in Flagler Beach than the job you guys are doing,” he told Heiser. “And I think we need to acknowledge that.”
TDC chairwoman Milissa Holland agreed, noting that all potential raises would come from visitor bed taxes, not county money.
Heiser and her team have put Flagler County on the map in a “huge way,” she said. “In my mind, it’s justifiable when you have measurable outcomes … that continue to exceed our expectations.”
Heiser noted that when she accepted her job, her salary was “well below” the average for those in similar positions elsewhere. It was then slightly raised, with the promise of increases down the road.
“I’ll stand behind my staff,” she said. “I think it’s warranted.”
Heiser’s proposal, which will be heard Sept. 7 by the County Commission, passed 6-1. Devore opposed.
PARTICIPATE IN VISIT FLAGLER
If you offer products or services that assist visitors, contact Laura Gamba, at 437-0106 or [email protected], to be included on www.VisitFlagler.org and promotional materials.
Contact Mike Cavaliere at [email protected].