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Council may revisit tourism next year

The Bremerton City Council is standing by its decision to defund Visit Kitsap Peninsula next year.

At least for now.

On Dec. 4, the city council voted 5-4 to remove $20,000 worth of lodging tax funding in the city’s 2014 budget to Visit Kitsap Peninsula, a local nonprofit that promotes tourism in Kitsap County. During a study session last week, the council revisited that decision, but Council President Greg Wheeler ultimately decided that it will be something that can be taken up by next year’s resized and revamped council.

The move to withhold VKP funding originated with councilwoman Leslie Daugs, who was recently tapped by county Democrats to replace outgoing county commissioner Josh Brown. Daugs said that VKP’s website and promotional literature is often filled with typos, incorrect information and doesn’t do a good enough job promoting Bremerton.

The Kitsap County Board of Commissioners, meanwhile, have taken a completely different tack. Last week, they voted to award VKP, the county’s tourism agency, a two-year contract for region-wide tourism marketing services.

“When so many initiatives are happening in our community to develop the tourism economy, now is the time to provide stability in funding for marketing our region and communities,” said Commissioner Rob Gelder. “It’s not a time to retract, but to charge forward with a plan of attack to increase our share of the tourism market.”

According to Eric Baker, a special projects manager for the commissioners’ office, the county wants to ensure continuity on several projects including a recently approved National Park Service grant for the Kitsap Peninsula Water Trails Management Program. The project is scheduled to start sometime next year and involves partnerships with multiple jurisdictions and counties.

VKP co-partnered with Kitsap County on the grant and will work with county staff to coordinate meetings with the Kitsap Peninsula Water Trails Alliance, regional stakeholders and the National Park Service.

“Visit Kitsap Peninsula is a valuable project and marketing resource for Kitsap County,” Baker said. “We especially appreciated their professionalism and ability to work with stakeholders like the North Kitsap Trails Association to create the Kitsap Peninsula Water Trails program. It was a big success and is now part of  Kitsap County’s region-wide Non-Motorized Transportation Plan.”

As part of the two-year contract, Visit Kitsap Peninsula will work with staff at Kitsap County Parks to increase utilization and attendance of events at county owned venues, as well as collaborate with other tourism-based organizations and activities in the county. The contract also includes funds for a major technical upgrade of the VKP website.

John Kuntz, president of the VKP Board of Directors said, “This is definitely an important milestone for Kitsap’s tourism industry. We are grateful to all of the commissioners for taking this historic leadership action and look forward to working together to promote the region’s natural assets and create new economic opportunities.”

Visit Kitsap Peninsula was founded in 1983 and is recognized as the official state designated tourism marketing agency for the Kitsap Peninsula. Its offices are located in Silverdale.

 

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