Keith Arnold outlined some of those changes when he presented a quarterly report to the City Council on Aug. 26.
The report included copies of the chamber’s budget that were proposed at the time the organization asked the city for $180,000 a year from its hotel and motel occupancy fund.
Money collected from the hotel and motel occupancy tax can only be used to promote tourism and bring more business to the local inns.
Arnold said one of the first things the chamber did was upgrade its computers. He said that was necessary because the Internet has turned the tourism industry upside down.
“Eighty-five percent of travelers planned or booked their trips online,” Arnold said.
He encouraged council members to ask travel agencies how the Internet has affected their businesses.
Keeping up with that change was what demanded the upgraded computers and phone system.
In addition, the chamber improved access and site lines for the Visitors Information Center located just inside the front door at the chamber office.
After conferring with managers of local hotels and motels, Arnold said the chamber will focus on promoting weekend business, festivals and events and cultural and heritage events in an effort to bring more visitors to the facilities.
Changes also were made in advertising and marketing with summer advertising focusing on family activities at the Joe Barnhart Bee County Library.
Also, the chamber will concentrate more on advertising details about upcoming festivals and events to allow families who plan to attend those events more time for planning their trips here.
Arnold said the chamber will make more use of running print ads in area newspapers because the Bee Publishing Co. newspapers now cover seven counties in the Coastal Bend.
Additionally, the chamber has started work on improving its interactive program, on upgrading its website to offer better event calendars, comprehensive visitor and quality of life information and improved software for its computers to help with the overall management of its operations.
About six weeks ago, the chamber hired Sylvia Padilla as a new administrative assistant. Since then the organization has improved its electronic communications with chamber members and stakeholders.
Plans for the future also include the creation of a new e-newsletter that will include business news, visitor-friendly information and quality of life updates for the county.
Work is underway to improve print and electronic visitor guide information and produce interpretive video and other displays for the chamber’s trade show exhibit materials.
Arnold said the chamber is making efforts to better utilize its digital board in front of the building at 1705 N. St. Mary’s St.
“We are in the process of starting up a Hotel/Motel Tourism Marketing Committee to keep track of trends, find new visitor markets and build more cooperative advertising funding,” Arnold said.
“The staff has begun building better relationships with annual festival and events organizers and will continue to look for ways to work together to build attendance and economic impact from these offerings,” Arnold said.
The organization plans to use the $180,000 in occupancy tax funds to increase overnight visitors and improve the economic impact those visitors have on the economy in order to benefit the tax base and improve the quality of life for county residents.
“We will do our best to keep you updated as we work toward the goal and objective just outlined,” Arnold said.
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 343-5220, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.