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Editorial: Davenport should reconsider slashing tourism funding

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"Tourism is the Rodney Dangerfield of business," consultant Bill Geist once told Quad-Cities leaders. "We get no respect."

That's certainly the case when communities take for granted the effective work of the people who promote an industry which generates 8,300 full-time jobs and contributes $800 million to our local economy each year.

That may be in part because the things such agencies do to drive a region's economy so often take place behind the scenes. In that way, our own lean, mean and effective Quad Cities Convention & Visitor's Bureau may be a victim of its own success.

Funders sometimes think the agency can do more with less because they don't see everything they do with the modest public contributions they receive.

If that is why Davenport aldermen are mulling another reduction in the city's contribution to the Quad Cities CVB, we urge them to rethink that conclusion before finalizing a budget slashing funding by $25,000. That would bring the city's contribution to the bureau to $375,000, which is down from $450,000 just a few years ago. That decline comes on the heels of a CVB budget that also lost out on $100,000 after Illinois killed a tourism marketing grant two years ago.

We understand how difficult it is for city leaders to fairly balance finite dollars against increasing demands. The pie gets no bigger, while those seeking a slice grows.

But we believe further slicing tourism's piece of the pie will cost our bistate community, including Davenport, far more in the long term.

That's why we're pleased to see the usually modest community cheerleaders at CVB quietly blowing their own horn; not because they need the community's praise (though they earned it in spades), but to ensure that they have the dollars necessary to sustain and grow our tourism industry.

We're happy to join the cheering section, and urge readers to do so, as well.

Why? As Joe Taylor, chairman and CEO of the Quad Cities CVB, writes in Viewpoints today, "Tourism is a process, not a destination. The process to sell the Quad-Cities starts over each morning; last night’s hotel rooms and yesterday’s meals that were not sold are gone forever and can’t be regained. Hotels need more room nights, restaurants need more diners, attractions need more attendance."

Cash-strapped Q-C taxpayers also need the tax dollars their visits generate to support our schools, police, firefighters and other cities services, and of course, the jobs tourism creates.

Clearly, our community gets a big bang for the bucks our cities invest in an effective organization that is crucial to a two-state, multi-city area. Without a strong regional agent to think big, and connect the dots to promote the community as a whole, we all will suffer (especially Davenport, which has the largest number of events and attractions to promote).

That's because not only could the latest loss of Davenport dollars jeopardize future events and festivals, it could be a crippling blow to the organization if other communities follow suit. We must not let that happen.

If the goal is, as Mr. Taylor once told us, to create a destination made up not of soloists, but of a choir singing one song, an effective director is essential. We urge Davenport aldermen to rethink slashing funding so that the agency has the resources it needs to do that important job.

(This editorial has been edited to correct the amount of money Davenport is proposing to contribute to the tourism bureau in its FY18 budget.)

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