Hudson has been the darling of travel journalism for quite a while now. As some like to point out, this has happened without the intervention of any governmental body like a tourism board or tourism office. The questions facing us in Hudson it seems are these: How long can this continue? Can anything be done proactively to perpetuate Hudson's appeal in a very fickle industry?
These are the very questions that the Tourism Board has been grappling with for the past year or so. It is what the members of the Tourism Board believed they were tasked to do by the law that created the lodging tax--the law that empowered the board "to take all reasonable steps it determines desirable, necessary and proper to market the City of Hudson as a destination for overnight and daytrip visitors." The board listened to complaints from residents that articles like the most recent one seen on Etihad Airways focused only on Warren Street and the city's restaurants, shops, galleries, and music venues and didn't portray Hudson as it really is. Such articles sometimes note in passing that the charm of Warren Street doesn't extend much beyond the main street. The article "Why Hudson is a draw for New York's artists," for example, devotes one paragraph to the "other Hudson":
Needless to say, gentrification has occurred and is marching through town apace. Warren Street does not represent the entirety of Hudson. Beyond the rehabbed buildings and the self-conscious boutiques, the city struggles with poverty. The 20 per cent of Hudson's residents living below the breadline benefit little from the tourists who file through adoringly.It doesn't seem unreasonable that the Tourism Board thought it was important to try to control the narrative about Hudson and to base that narrative on input from our diverse community. Nor does it seem unreasonable that they would think an outsider, with no preconceived notions of Hudson but a track record of doing this sort of thing successfully in other communities, might be the right person to engage the community and help craft the story. But the community thought otherwise.
The criticism of the Tourism Board's recommendation ran the gamut. Some declared that Hudson tourism was doing just fine, and this kind of tampering could ruin a good thing. Others shared the opinion that someone from Nashville could not possibly "get" Hudson in the short time he planned to spend here, not to mention that fact that Hudson is way cooler than any of the other cities he's worked with. At least one critic objected to spending money on an outside consultant when all the talent needed to do job is right here in Hudson and allegedly willing to work pro bono. Others expressed the opinion that the money allocated for the Tourism Board's mission should be spent on repairing the sidewalks and improving the parks. Some maintained that tourism, like gentrification, was a bad thing, because it was displacing people and destroying the unique cultural fabric of Hudson, and should not be encouraged.
At its meeting on August 27, one week after the Common Council exercised its "power of the purse" and refused to approve a resolution authorizing the mayor to enter into a contract with the consultant of choice, Chandlerthinks, members of the Tourism Board, characterized by one critic as "hostile" and "arrogant," conceded that they had done an inadequate job of communicating with the Council and the community about what they were doing and what their goals were. They unanimously agreed to withdraw the proposal that had been rejected by the Council and to work, between then and the Council's November meeting, to get buy-in and votes for their plan to understand "what tourism's role is in creating a livable city."
The next meeting of the Tourism Board takes place on Tuesday, September 24, at 5:30 p.m. at 1 North Front Street.
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