Local hotel operators and tourism officials want the same thing. They want more people to visit Garden City.
Yet the groups clearly were at odds during Monday's Finney County Commission meeting.
Upset with how the county's hotel-motel tax dollars are spent, several hoteliers asked commissioners to separate the Finney County Convention and Tourism Bureau from the Garden City Area Chamber of Commerce.
A 6 percent hotel-motel tax goes to the Convention and Tourism Bureau (CTB) to market new and existing events that bring people to town. The CTB budgeted just more than $200,000 this year, based on 2010 hotel-motel tax revenues.
Eager for new events that draw visitors, the hoteliers want more hotel-motel tax receipts spent on marketing, and less on administrative costs.
Along with funding various tourism and marketing initiatives, the so-called "bed" tax also pays the full salaries of the CTB director and assistant director; half of the salaries of a receptionist and a bookkeeper who works for the chamber and CTB; and one-third of the chamber president's salary.
The hoteliers also claim there isn't enough oversight of CTB spending, and that the county should sign off on expenditures.
Yet the CTB is held accountable, as its budget must be approved by the county commission. That said, more transparency when it comes to spending always would help — spelling out costs for the new community branding effort coordinated by the CTB, for example.
The fear is in making the funding subject to political whim. If what's happening in Topeka and Washington, D.C., is any indication, local tourism initiatives could be erased in an instant if elected officials control those purse strings.
Instead, hoteliers and other stakeholders should take advantage of a sensible system that allows them to be involved in how hotel-motel tax dollars are spent.
The current Convention and Tourism Advisory Committee, in place to foster ideas and plans, includes a number of hotel operators. Through the committee, they have a voice and should be heard.
After all, everyone wants the funds used to draw more visitors. Good events and attractions bring people who spend money here, which helps the local economy. Everyone wins.
The three-day 3i Show, for example, generates more than $1 million in economic impact to the community in motel rooms, dining, shopping and other expenditures.
As the hoteliers pointed out, it does make sense to use as much of the hotel-motel tax on marketing as possible.
It's also necessary to acknowledge the multifaceted job of boosting tourism — one that involves sales, marketing and services, and has to be tackled with expertise and from different angles. Beyond creating new events, we also need to promote the fine attractions already here, such as Lee Richardson Zoo.
The challenge is in using local strengths to create new draws.
With that in mind, the hoteliers pitched a good idea in attracting sports tournaments. The chamber has a plan to pursue such events, and should be allowed to make it work.
Meanwhile, it's safe to say county officials aren't eager to be involved in every tourism-related decision and expenditure. They have enough on their plate.
Commissioners should, however, insist that all involved work together to outline the best possible tourism strategies for Garden City and Finney County.
This is no time to overhaul or shortchange tourism — especially in the face of such challenges as retaining the 3i Show at a time Dodge City would no doubt welcome the huge event.
The local chamber and hoteliers have the same goal: bringing in more visitors. They just differ on how to get there.
To move forward, the next step has to be better communication.
County Commissioner Cliff Mayo said it best: "I am of the opinion that we have something in place that will work if you will listen to each other."
If all involved share thoughts, concerns and strategies through a system that encourages as much, local tourism efforts should pay even bigger dividends in the future.
Everyone just needs to play ball.
E-mail Editor-publisher Dena Sattler at email@example.com.