In this week’s Chamber Article, we would like to talk about our partnership with the Cheboygan Area Visitors Bureau. The Cheboygan has a great "1 -2 punch" when it come to the marketing of the area; The Cheboygan Area Chamber of Commerce and The Cheboygan Area Visitors Bureau. This past year, the Cheboygan Area was featured in at least 7 different travel magazines that have state wide distributions, 8 different trade shows throughout the mid-west, multiple radio markets throughout the states of Michigan, Indiana and Ohio, 8 different newspaper markets throughout Southern Michigan, 5 different special interest travel maps including ones focusing on boating, hiking, biking, snowmobiling, skiing, atv riding and light houses, millions of clicks, hits and impressions through nationwide internet and social media partnerships through award winning marketing entities such as The West Michigan Tourist Association and, of course, the Pure Michigan Campaign. Cheboygan is also present on I-75 with a billboard strategically placed just before the three exits that lead to the city of Cheboygan. While all of those outreach efforts encourage people to visit Cheboygan and learn about our amenities by using the cheboygan.com web site, which the Chamber of Commerce maintains, none of it would have been possible without the financial backing of the Cheboygan Area Visitors Bureau.
Many of those efforts were probably not witnessed by local residents because they were all designed to introduce Cheboygan to people in other communities that might have never heard of what we have to offer to our guests to this area. But those efforts are not all. The Cheboygan Area Visitors Bureau, as an organization, has also been a proud supporter of many of the signature events that help make the Cheboygan Area such a great place, not only to visit but also to live. Events such as the Waterways Festival, the new Cheboygan Fall Festival, Music on Mullett, the Father’s Day weekend Car Show, and The Old 27 Motor Tour were all made possible through sponsorship dollars given by the Visitors Bureau.
So how did this partnership for marketing the Cheboygan Area get started? Much of the answer to that question comes from how each of the two organizations were originally formed and what their main purpose is in a community. Chambers of Commerce are membership organizations that have a mission for helping their member businesses grow and thrive. Chamber Members choose to utilize the support that a Chamber of Commerce gives each year when they renew their membership or when they join for the first time. But, membership is always a choice. Chamber Members come and go each year based on their individual business needs, wants and growth strategy. Visitors Bureaus are a different type of organization. They were actually formed by state law in the early 1980’s.
Michigan Public Act 395 and Michigan Public Act 59 established “marketing and program assessment districts” or Tourist Bureaus, across the state. These Bureaus were established with the specific mission to collect finds to market their individual districts in an effort to drive tourism and stimulate the local economies. They do this through the collection of room assessments or taxes on the cost of renting a room in the assessment district. For example, if the rate of a room at a hotel were $100 there would need to be 6% sales tax added which would make the actual cost of the room $106. In assessment districts though, an additional tax can be added for the purpose of marketing the area. Here in Cheboygan our assessment rate is 5%. So, using our $100 room example, the total cost of the room would be $111; $100 for the room, $6 for state sales tax and $5 for marketing efforts to be performed by the Visitors Bureau. $5 may not sound like much, but when you start to multiply that by the number of nights that a room is rented and the number of rooms in a district, that dollar amount available for marketing can be significant.
The Cheboygan Area Visitors Bureau is made up of the following lodging properties in our assessment district: The Best Western River Terrace, The Fleetwood Inn and Suites, The Birch Haus Motel, The Continental Inn, Johnson's Motel, LeDuc's Creekside Motel, The Monarch, The North Country Inn and The Pine River Motel. Each month the owners of these nine properties meet as a Board of Directors and make decisions on how to best spend the marketing dollars that have been collected from the assessments.
For administrative support, and Executive Director services, the Cheboygan Area Visitors Bureau contracts with the Cheboygan Area Chamber of Commerce to have the Chamber Executive Director also serve as the Executive Director of the Visitors Bureau. The maintenance of that seamless working relationship between the two organizations is key to the success that we as a community have been able to enjoy in area marketing support. The Visitors Bureau’s marketing efforts bring people into the community and the Chamber of Commerce helps them have a quality experience, while they are here, though the many products and services available from Chamber Members. A perfect “1-2 punch”!
Unfortunately, in many communities throughout Michigan, the relationship between the Chamber of Commerce and the Visitors Bureau is not as strong as it is here in Cheboygan. In some places it can even be an adversarial relationship. That kind of negative relationship should never happen here in Cheboygan. The current Chamber Board of Directors and the current Visitors Bureau Board of Directors, both strongly understand that by working together in a close partnership, we can accomplish so much more for the marketing and outreach of the Cheboygan Area than if either organization were to ever try to do it alone. Now, that’s Cheboygan!