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VCVB approves increased budget

[11/24/04]Expecting more money from the sales tax that supports it and nearly full funding on state tourism promotion grants, the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau board has approved a 2005 budget up more than $17,000.

Emy Wilkinson, executive director of the bureau, said the new plan also includes revenue from ads being sold for the first time in the intown visitors guide.

About 200,000 of the full-color guides are printed and given to visitors or mailed to people who call or write for information.

Wilkinson said advertising has been selling well for the magazine-style publication with the staff having sold six of the 14 pages.

The board decided to approve selling space in the publication to help offset some of the cost of producing the brochure.

Also, the budget shows the Department of Tourism of the Mississippi Development Authority awarding the bureau $64,200 of the $65,000 in tourist promotion grants it had sought.

In the income portion of the 2005 budget, the bureau anticipates receiving $820,000 from the Mississippi Tax Commission, $15,000 more than 2004. The bureau is supported by a sales tax collected on the rental of motel and bed and breakfast inn rooms and on restaurant and bar tabs.

With revenue from the ad sales and from the state grants, Wilkinson said the income should be $942,815.

On the expense side of the budget, Wilkinson said she planned on spending $966,603, up nearly $8,000 from the $925,612 spent in 2004.

Wilkinson said she planned for the bureau to be more active in going to marketplaces at which they try to induce travel planners, meeting planners and others in the travel industry to book group tours, meetings and individual tours to the Vicksburg area. This is reflected in the doubling of the line item from $7,000 in 2004 to $14,000 next year

Along with that, she said she added $2,000 to the budget for research through a membership in the Smith Travel Report, which tracks monthly hotel occupancy rates through participating hotels.

The familiarization or “fam” tours which bring travel writers, tour operators and others to the city to see what Vicksburg has to offer was increased from $4,000 to $7,000.

Much of the advertising expenses were also raised with advertising space going from $132,000 to $145,000; advertising production rising from $24,000 to $45,000 and printing going from $80,000 to $95,000.

Dropped from the advertising budget was the $25,000 the bureau had allocated in 2004 for television advertising in surrounding communities.

The budget also lists capital outlay rising from $2,100 to $15,000 which Wilkinson explained would be used for repairs and renovations at the tourist information center at Clay Street and Old Highway 27, some changes at the Clay and Washington office; two computers for use by visitors and some software upgrades.