The Kenai Peninsula Borough building, pictured Sept. 12, 2018, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

The Kenai Peninsula Borough building, pictured Sept. 12, 2018, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

Tourism marketing council to make case to borough assembly

$150,000 would be appropriated from the borough general fund balance to the council.

In hopes of receiving a $150,000 grant from the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly , the Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council will on Tuesday present their plan to bring tourists to the peninsula.

The $150,000 would be appropriated from the borough general fund balance to the tourism marketing council for the purpose of promoting tourism in areas of the borough outside the cities, according to an ordinance sponsored by Brent Hibbert and approved Dec. 3. The grant money came with conditions, which require the council to present objectives on how the council plans to use the money to promote local tourism.

The assembly will consider a resolution sponsored by Hibbert that will be introduced in Tuesday’s agenda supporting the council’s objectives and awarding the grant.

The resolution states the council’s objectives are to develop and implement strategies for attracting online impressions and conversions, and tracking conversions of impressions to sales in the tourism markets and to promote significant increases in tourism during the shoulder seasons.

No other presentation materials or plans from the council were provided in the resolution, but the council’s interim director, Debbie Speakman, said she will be attending the assembly committee meeting and the regular assembly meeting on Tuesday to answer any questions assembly members have.

“We’re taking things slow, but we’re getting excited about the coming year,” Speakman said.

The tourism marketing council submitted a grant application to the borough in February 2019 for $100,000. Hibbert’s ordinance allows the council an opportunity to update its grant application to include an outline of proposed projects. The ordinance also requires the council to present program objectives to the assembly for approval, before the grant will be awarded. The council has 45 days to send in an updated application, which will also be presented to borough administration.

The council is working to promote the shoulder season — which takes place in spring and early summer and fall, Speakman said, especially after the Swan Lake Fire curbed tourism on the peninsula last summer.

Speakman said the council is also working toward better analytics in an effort to better show the organization’s success in bringing people to the peninsula, which has been a sticking point with borough administration at past assembly meetings.

The grant money comes after several attempts to fund the council.

Mayor Charlie Pierce has vetoed the grant money twice. The first veto was during the FY 2020 budget process when Pierce zeroed out the $100,000 tourism marketing council funds provided in years past. The money was amended back into the budget by the assembly, but was successfully vetoed by Pierce in June. An ordinance funding a $150,000 grant to the council was passed by the assembly in November. Pierce attempted to veto the funds, but was overridden at the December assembly meeting.

In a December letter announcing the veto, Pierce said the grant was a special appropriation outside of the budget cycle that is $50,000 more than the original $100,000 that was proposed in the borough’s FY 2020 budget, which is “setting bad precedent.” In his letter, Pierce said the council’s impact on the tourism industry is highly speculative. He said in his letter that he has not seen any data showing they have increased tourism in the borough.

Since the 1990s, the Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council has been funded by the borough. In FY 2019, the borough provided the council with $100,000. In the FY 2018 budget, the borough supported the council with $305,980 in funds, and $340,00 in FY 2017.

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