Lodging properties, visitors bureau at odds over putting 'heads in beds'

A group representing Carson City's hotels and motels has become increasingly frustrated by a tourism bureau that it says is stuck in the past and does little to foster and support events that attract overnight stays.

"Things that worked approximately five to 10 years ago are not going to work anymore," Jesse Dhami, representing Holiday Inn Express, said Friday. "The bureau and lodging are partners, and they should work as a team. Investments need to be made where we can expect some returns."

Carson City Convention & Visitors Bureau executive director, Candy Duncan, expressed surprise Friday that the group was unhappy.

"I thought all these problems had been resolved," said Duncan. "We've listened to them and reached out to them. I am disappointed that they took this to the Board of Supervisors."

Dhami, who also represents lodging interests on the Carson City Convention & Visitors Bureau's five-member board, appeared before the Carson City Board of Supervisors on Thursday with several other hotel and motel managers to read into the record a two-page letter stating their concerns and calling on city officials to review the effectiveness of the CCCVB.

"Since the economic downturn in 2008, increasing tourism in Carson City has become even more critical for the financial success of our city and individual businesses," the letter said. "Achievement of this goal requires an understanding and willingness by the CCCVB and the tourism board to act quickly and innovatively to change course as needed."

Among the tourism-related companies' complaints are a lack of communication between the bureau and the lodging properties, and advertising that primarily promotes the V&T Railroad and the "Divine 9" golf courses.

Duncan said she was surprised that Jonathan Boulware, general manager of Gold Dust West Casino and a member of the CCCVB Events Advisory Committee, "was up there with them, even though I meet with him every week as part of the Events Advisory Committee."

The lodging group also fears that advice in a newly adopted Strategic Tourism Plan for the bureau will fall by the wayside.

The plan's author, consultant Carl Ribaudo, concluded that, "Based on the current situation facing Carson City, it is clear that a change in strategy is needed to more effectively deal with current and perceived short-term market challenges."

The lodging group stated in its letter to supervisors, "We are not confident the strategies set forth will be carried out."

Dhami said one idea the lodging group would like to see developed is expanding Nevada Day so more people will stay the night in Carson City. Other events that don't need a big arena but could bring in 200 to 300 people, he said, are gun shows, coin shows, off-road activities and paintball competitions. Marketing the city as a destination for bicycling and other outdoor recreational activities could also be developed, he said.

Events that have hit the mark so far are sporting events such as the Comstock Soccer Tournament in April and the Memorial Day Softball Tournament, he said.

Dhami said the group members thought carefully before bringing their concerns to supervisors.

"We strongly feel that communicating with the CCCVB about these concerns will not be taken seriously and will not result in any changes," the letter said.

Dhami elaborated on the issue Friday.

"We feel that whatever the hotels want is not being considered, and that's what's frustrating. There has not been a positive response, and we think this should be a team effort," he said.

Duncan said she has been meeting with the board and the events committee regularly to work on developing new events, but that these things don't happen overnight.

"We have been addressing all their questions," she said. "We want the same things for Carson City as they do, and we always have as our goal 'heads in beds.' We are following that strategic plan right now."

City Manager Larry Werner said Friday that a joint meeting will be scheduled before November with supervisors and the CCCVB board to hash out the issues. He added that Duncan will meet with her board in early September to determine which member should be designated to help her when she meets with Werner and Supervisor Molly Walt, who is also a member of the CCCVB board, to put together an agenda for that special meeting.


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