Lynchburg Officials Upset Over Lack of Negotiation With Tourism Budget

Lynchburg, VA - The clock is ticking for Lynchburg city officials. A contract with the chamber of commerce for tourism funding is up at the end of the year.

They're now tasked with figuring out how much to fund the program, and if they want to continue working with the chamber.

It's a matter of money; how much and why? And Tuesday night at a city council work session, council members debated just that.

Lynchburg Mayor Mike Gillette got fired up; disappointed with what he calls an unwillingness to negotiate, "We hear your discomfort, you are the customer, we're coming to you to say here are some adjustments we would be willing to make. And yet we don't get that. What we get is more of the same pre-packaged numbers to justify a $1.3 million figure that's in their heads, which may or may not be appropriate" he said.

Discover Lynchburg, the city's tourism organization, is currently allotted $1.3 million a year. A number they say is turned to pure profit for the city.

"$20.5 million dollars are coming back as a direct result of the advertising and marketing efforts of Lynchburg's tourism program" said Greg Starbuck, Chairman of Lynchburg's Tourism Advisory Board.

Starbuck says Discover Lynchburg makes the city millions. Through their marketing $20.5 million is pumped into the local economy through hotels, restaurants, and other businesses.

And he says a recent study found tourists more than ever are coming to the city not to visit family, and not to see schools, but rather, "The number one reason people come to Lynchburg is they're visiting our sites and enjoying our city" said Starbuck.

"Fund it, and get out of the way and let them do their job, their professionals" said Lynchburg City Councilman, H. Cary.

Cary is impressed with the numbers. But he's disappointed the contract isn't being negotiated; a fault he places on the chamber of commerce.

"Come to us with a draft contract that addresses those concerns, be proactive" he said.

It's a discussion that no doubt will continue for months to come. According to Gillette, if the tourism budget were to be cut to $750,000, it would still be double what it was five years ago.