Supervisors hear of visitors bureau accomplishments
Fairfield Iowa Convention and Visitors Bureau helps the community to benefit from a $38.85 million tourism industry in Jefferson County, executive director Rustin Lippincott told the Jefferson County Board of Supervisors Monday.
That’s a 14.2 percent increase in fiscal year 2013 from fiscal year 2012, and compares to a 5.6 percent increase statewide, Lippincott said.
“Tourism is vital to our community, employing 300 people and contributing nearly $40 million,” he said.
State tax receipts in Fairfield and Jefferson County were $1.75 million and the local tax receipts were $310,000, which represents a 7 percent increase.
Fairfield’s hotel and motel tax generated $130,682 in FY2013, which represents a 12.3 percent increase from the previous year.
“The hotel and motel tax has increased 31 percent since 2005,” said Lippincott. “It’s not only lodging that brings money into the county. Our tourism mix includes restaurants, entertainment, recreation, general retail trade and more.”
Those types of expenditures contribute to the Local Option Sales Tax, which was a total of $791,943 in FY2013, a 1 percent increase from FY2012.
The convention and visitors bureau generated an additional $10,000 in revenue from event sponsorship, motor coach guide services and the county supervisors’ contribution, according to the annual report.
“We provide leadership, attract visitors, support activities and position the community on the market,” said Lippincott. “Hosting RAGBRAI was the best commercial we could have for the community.”
Highlights from the past year for the convention and visitors bureau include:
• Participated in securing Fairfield’s place as No. 7 in Smithsonian magazine’s America’s 20 Best Small Towns.
• Communicated Fairfield’s desire to host RAGBRAI XXI, leading to the organizational planning efforts.
Lippincott acknowledged assistant director Terry Baker’s efforts in organizing the fake mustache Guinness Book of World Records win.
• Developed and marketed Maasdam Barns audio tours to enhance visitor experience and provide information.
The bureau worked with Hedquist Productions to develop and produce a five-part audio tour for Maasdam Barns. The tours can be used online as well as onsite; MP3 players are available at the barns’ visitors center. Visitors can walk the grounds and learn the history and features of the site. The audio tour includes narration, sound effects and music. The audio also is available on the TravelFairfield.com website.
• Enhanced the bureau’s digital strategy with the introduction of its app, bringing Fairfield closer to target markets. The app is beneficial for potential visitors and residents, providing information about attractions, restaurants, visitor services and entertainment, all available on smart phones and tablets.
The bureau continues its Facebook presence geared at engaging the audience and inspiring conversations about the Fairfield experience.
• Partnered with the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center and local merchants, rewarding shopping local with the Shop Fairfield Holiday promotion.
• Created and conducted a Destination Fairfield training for local residents, retailers, volunteers — designed to encourage local businesses to incorporate tourism-friendly practices at their business and make Fairfield the most visitor-friendly city in Iowa. The two-hour class included hospitality training as well as information about Fairfield area attractions.
More than 60 participants received a certificate of completion and a Destination Fairfield Tourism handbook that provides information about attractions and events in and around Fairfield, interesting and fun facts, and a list of phone numbers and websites for further information.
• The bureau welcomed eight motor coaches with ridership of 420 to Fairfield in FY2013. It partnered with the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center, Fairfield Area Chamber of Commerce’s Merchants Association, Overland Sheepskin Co., Maharishi University of Management, Maharishi Vedic City, Abundance EcoVillage, various restaurants and galleries and The Raj to present day and multi-day itineraries featuring Fairfield arts and culture, sustainable living and international dining. Motor coaches also toured industry partners Creative Edge, Bovard Studio and Radiance Dairy, providing a hands-on experience for group travelers.
The convention and visitors bureau also sponsors a grant program to assist organizations to provide excellence in cultural, civic and educational programs that attract visitors to the Fairfield area. The bureau administered the 2012 grant program, funding 33 events and tourism initiatives, totaling $13,000. The bureau offered grant funds as well as assistance in marketing, public relations and event planning to grant recipients.
“We’ve been recognized in the industry as a top grant program,” said Lippincott.
Supervisor Becky Schmitz said she’s served on the convention and visitors bureau board for three years.
“We are blessed to have professional and creative tourism directors in Rustin and Terry,” she said.
In other business Monday, the Jefferson County Board of Supervisors:
• Amended a salary resolution for two sheriff’s deputies that had been approved for a higher, incorrect amount, to the correct rate of $20.09 per hour. The deputies had not been paid the incorrect rate.
• Approved hiring Tracy Vance as a sheriff’s deputy at an annual salary of $44,649.65.
County Engineer Scott Cline said his road crews had been out on snow routes Dec. 9-10 and had worked on Wintergreen Avenue Friday night and Saturday.
“I had a lot of thank you calls on the blading and plowing, it was much appreciated,” said supervisor chairman Lee Dimmitt.
Don Sander, director of the Jefferson County Alcohol Consumption Task Force, invited the supervisors and the community to attend a task force meeting/presentation at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 23, at the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center.