Lynchburg, VA - Lynchburg's tourism industry is on edge after the city proposed severe cuts - a 43% cut in fact. Wednesday, the Tourism Advisory Board met to pow-wow and hammer out its next move, and concern in the room ran high.
The tourism board decided it would not accept a single cut to its budget. That's the message tourism is now taking back to city council. Because, there's fear that a 43% cut to tourism would threaten every Lynchburg attraction.
"We're just starting to get on the map, so I'd like us to stay on the map," said Greg Starbuck, director, Sandusky House.
Greg Starbuck runs the Historic Sandusky House. The city's proposed $580,000 chop to tourism threatens this project, and others like it. Jeffrey Nichols runs Poplar Forest now, but he once ran the Mark Twain House Museum in Connecticut and saw what big tourism cuts can do.
"It had a profound impact not just on the Mark Twain House, but every site within the state of Connecticut," said Nichols, president, Poplar Forest.
Here's where tourism money comes from: for each person in a Lynchburg hotel, there is a $1 per night charge and 73 cents of that dollar goes to fund tourism. But, the city has raised concern that hotel revenue isn't growing. Still, tourism never imagined a 43% cut.
"What would Discover Lynchburg look like in 5 years at that cut?" we asked.
"It would be a shell. Needless to say, it would be a shell of itself," said Lynn Fairchild-Martin, vice chair, Tourism Board.
"It is extreme. There's no question. 43% is an extreme cut," said H. Cary.
City Council Member H. Cary doesn't see tourism losing the entire proposed $580,000. But, some cuts are possible.
"I could see a $100,000, $200,000 cut as being reasonable based on the lodging figures and the meals tax revenue we are seeing," said Cary.
The tourism industry isn't taking this lying down. April second is the public hearing at City Council. A lot is on the line. Tourism brings $156 million into just Lynchburg every year, not to mention 1,500 jobs.