Tourism proposal raises spending limit

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Brockville’s next tourism contract could cost the city as much as $225,000, although city hall is advising bidders to aim for a lower budget.


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City council on Tuesday will vote on the terms of a request for proposals (RFP) to be issued in April for the next tourism contract. Council’s economic development, recreation and tourism committee recommended the package earlier this week.

Committee members at their Tuesday meeting also voted to raise the upper limit of any new contract from $200,000 to $225,000.

City officials are taking their first hard look at tourism services in nearly two decades.

The city’s sixth consecutive single-source tourism contract with the chamber of commerce has been extended by a year to the end of 2020.

Tourism services in Brockville were once run out of the city’s economic development department. In 2002, city council agreed to let the chamber take over tourism services on a contract.

The first of those tourism contracts, running from Mar. 1, 2002 through the end of 2003, cost the city $80,000 per year. Since then, much has changed, including increases to the chamber’s core funding to accommodate different projects and activities.

The cost of the contract for 2020 is $199,885.

City officials concluded that, after six contracts with the same provider, they need to subject that procurement process to more scrutiny.

Complicating matters is the advent of the Municipal Accommodation Tax (MAT), the proceeds from which are meant to pay for tourism marketing and promotion. That has given the city nearly $200,000 more, prompting it to put out two separate requests for proposals, one for tourism services and another for tourism marketing and promotion, with the potential of having two different entities delivering those services in 2021.


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The RFP the committee approved Tuesday is thus for “tourism information and stakeholder services.” That includes running the visitor centre, social media, relations with tourism businesses and event organizers, festivals and events and developing other products.

Currently, the centre is staffed seven days a week from Victoria Day to Labour Day, and five days a week the rest of the year.

Staff’s report to the committee notes potential bidders should be encouraged to come up with “innovative delivery models,” and officials want to give the bidders some flexibility on how to run the visitor centre. The contract also does not call for the successful bidder to handle merchandising, but bidders are welcome to come up with a plan to do so if they wish.

Staff recommends any new contract be for a maximum of five years.

A separate RFP for promotion services is to follow.

Committee members initially debated a motion suggesting the upside limit for the new tourism contract be $200,000, essentially the current cost, a figure with which Coun. Matt Wren was comfortable.

“It looks like there’s enough room left for some creativity to come back in the proposals,” he added.

But citizen appointee Jessica Barabash suggested increasing that limit to $225,000.

“Tourism has been chronically underfunded for a number of years compared to some of our neighbours,” she said.

“If we are asking for kind of revolutionary, new, innovative ideas, that extra $25,000 in that contact could go a long way to helping with that.”


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Wren, however, was concerned with “arbitrarily increasing the budget by 12 and a half per cent to perform the same thing, or nearly so.”

Coun. Jane Fullarton, the committee chairwoman, said keeping the upper limit at this year’s cost would mean the successful bidder would not even get a CPI increase, which the chamber has been getting every year.

“I do think that tourism is an important part of our economy in Brockville,” she said.

“I think we need to fund it adequately,” she added.

“I don’t think that that bump-up is overly generous.”

The committee ultimately backed the $225,000 ceiling.

“This is an upper limit,” said citizen appointee Tony Barnes.

“That doesn’t force anybody to go there.”

The staff report notes that “proponents will be encouraged to submit a budget which is the most cost effective and not necessarily the upper limit of funds available.”

City officials plan to issue the RFP April 10, with a recommendation to council on a successful bidder coming to council June 9.

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