Saturday, April 18, 2020

The Tourism Board Charts Its Course

Because of technical difficulties and miscommunication, people trying to listen to the Tourism Board meeting yesterday missed the "advisement" from city attorney Cheryl Roberts about the permitted use of the $400,000 of lodging tax revenue allocated to the Tourism Board, but the upshot was that the money cannot be used to make grants or loans to local businesses that make Hudson a desirable destination. That being the case, the Tourism Board will be using the money to fund events and activities--projects that can happen now, while social distancing is in place, and projects that can happen once the pandemic is over.

In the absence of Tourism Board chair Calvin Lewis, who reportedly was ill, the meeting was chaired by Council president Tom DePietro. Mayor Kamal Johnson and his aide, Michael Chameides, were also part of the meeting, which involved presentations by both Tourism Board members and nonmembers. 

The first to present was Tourism Board member Chris McManus, who spoke of tourism as "something that can help Hudson recover" but also referred to it as "the elephant in the room." He divided Hudson tourists into three categories: "couples from Brooklyn coming for the weekend, spending a lot of money, and leaving" (McManus acknowledged the people from Boston also fit into this group); local day trippers; and what he called "infra-tourism," Hudsonians who visited neighborhoods other than their own. He spoke of designing activities "based on who we're trying to attract."

Board member Sidney Long shared several ideas, among them an online version of Open Studio Hudson, which took place in October 2019; "encouraging people's memories of this pandemic"; an Easter parade with Easter bonnets. She also made reference to the effort to designate the original Shiloh Baptist Church as a local landmark and spoke of it as an anchor for some unspecified tourism initiative.

In her presentation, Tamar Adler, another member of the Tourism Board, asserted, "The best thing we can do is work on the substance of our 'place.'" She suggested "other frameworks we might want to take on": walkability, tactical urban city, and child-centered space. 

Sam Merrett, of the carbon-neutral vessel Apollonia, spoke briefly of a proposal he had presented to the Tourism Board for funding for a recurring event he called "Waterfront Wednesday," which he suggested could begin in July.

Mayoral aide Michael Chameides presented possible criteria for judging grant applications, suggesting that grants could be made in amounts up to $100,000. DePietro said he wanted a rating system that used numbers, such as the City uses when judging proposals submitted in response to RFPs. Adler suggested that the criteria include judging proposals in terms of contributing to a child-centered environment and addressing climate change. 

It was agreed that they needed to work quickly to establish the criteria, and an ad hoc committee was formed, made up of Tourism Board members McManus, Adler, Filiz Soyak, and Hannah Black, to draft an RFP and criteria for judging proposals. 

When the meeting was close to concluding, Long opined, "The way we tackle this pandemic will be of great interest. From a public relations view, this could be great." 

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