The  Clark-Floyd Counties Convention and Tourism Bureau dedicated more funding to projects than ever in 2011 through the issuance of bonds. However, there are other ways the area tasked with promoting Southern Indiana spent money.

The tourism bureau’s operating fund — garnered through a tax collected on hotel rooms — reported income at $941,760 in 2011, a slight increase over 2010 figures. The bulk of the income spent last year was on marking and promotion, along with salaries and benefits for the convention and tourism bureau’s staff.

In 2011, the tourism bureau spent $313,690 on marketing the region in nearby metropolitan areas.

John Gilkey, tourism bureau director of communications, said most of the marketing takes place in cities like Indianapolis, Evansville and Cincinnati, and is designed to generate overnight stays in local hotels.

“We’ll do generalized kind of marketing, in so far as, not targeting a specific trafficking or a specific hotel, but selling the fact that we’re a mile away from Louisville, you can park for free here ... that sort of thing,” he said. “We target meetings and conventions, but we’re sort of the second tier. Louisville draws the really big ones, but there are a lot of other people out looking for meetings that don’t need the Kentucky International Convention Center.”

Examples of the money spent on marketing in other cities include a campaign in Indianapolis that included newspaper, television, radio and website advertisements; regular ads in Evansville Living, Indianapolis Monthly and AAA Hoosier magazines; and along with the Southern Indiana Regional Marketing Cooperative, advertised in the national History Channel Magazine, in which the Lewis and Clark Expedition was featured.

Gilkey added the tourism bureau has been gearing up for a Lewis and Clark’s annual heritage trail meeting planned for July.

“That’s going to be a pretty big deal for the area,” he said. “Several hundred people coming into that convention.”

Beyond constants like the Lewis and Clark trail that draw people to the area, Gilkey said the tourism bureau is expanding its level of the marketing.

He said that the bureau’s Marketing and Sales Director Jennifer Abbott is pitching a marketing plan for the area that would bring a bus tour group to the region to visit various attractions.

Future staff

In addition to the marketing work that Abbott already does, the bureau is planning on adding a full-time marketing position, which is a part of the three-year strategic destination plan the bureau has adopted.

“This would be someone who would work with her, and it’s a person who’s going to deal directly with the local organizations working hand in glove with them and trying to bring the things they’re wanting to market into our plan,” Gilkey said.

No decision has been made by personnel committee yet on when the position will be officially advertised or what the person’s salary will be. Tourism Bureau Executive Director Jim Keith said the bureau will seek applicants for the position as soon as possible.

Adding another full-time salary to the tourism bureau’s payroll will have to fit into the salaries and benefits in the bureau’s general operating budget, Gilkey said.

According to the 2011 annual report, the salaries and benefits for the convention and tourism bureau’s staff equaled $350,909. The staff includes five full-time employees, as well as several part-time staff members at Southern Indiana Visitors Center and the Interstate 65 southbound rest area near Henryville.

Keith said the breakdown for its full-time employees salaries, without benefits, were two employees earned $30,000, one was paid $40,000, one salary is $60,000 and the last of the five full-time employees is about $90,000. He added the new employee’s salary would be between $25,000 and $40,000.

Although the cost is without benefits, the total expenses for full-time salaries equals $290,000 with the new position included. That would allow for a remainder of nearly $61,000 for benefits and part-time employees. And in 2011 there was a surplus of $150,344 that could cover the additional salary.

Keith said the tourism bureau is not concerned about being able to cover the additional salary and if a shortfall were to occur, the bureau would address it at that time.

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