Showtime: Funding increase allows Janesville to do tourism show
JANESVILLE The organization charged with promoting Janesville to visitors will spend $36,000 for an exclusive appearance on "Discover Wisconsin," a syndicated tourism television show that airs on 40 stations in eight Midwestern states.
The Janesville City Council on Monday approved an increase in the percentage of local room tax dollars that go to the Janesville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Historically, the bureau received 37.5 percent of the local room tax, which typically amounted to about $262,000—98 percent of the bureau's annual budget for marketing the community as a tourism destination.
The council increased that percentage to 42.5 percent, which will put another $35,500 into the bureau's coffers.
Each year, the city collects about $710,000 from its 8 percent room tax. What doesn't go to the bureau goes to the city's general fund, said Jay Winzenz, the city's director of administrative services.
Christine Rebout, the bureau's executive director, said the new money would be funneled into marketing and sales efforts.
"The goal is to invest that money to re-create and increase the room tax," she said.
The bureau has contracted with "Discover Wisconsin" to produce a 30-minute segment that will air three times in 2014 and 2015 plus radio spots and links on various websites.
After commercials, the community will actually get about 22 minutes of airtime with the broadcast of each episode.
"Discover Wisconsin is not inexpensive," Rebout said. "Each episode costs about $36,000 to produce."
Rebout said it's a common misperception that "Discover Wisconsin" episodes are free as a function of the state's Department of Tourism. The television program, however, is not connected to the state agency.
In addition to paying for an episode that will focus on Janesville, the bureau partnered with the Ice Age Trail Alliance and Evansville Tourism Commission to be a part of a "Discover Wisconsin" series on the Ice Age Trail. The episode will air three times between this year and 2015.
"Cost is always a factor when contracting for a 'Discover Wisconsin' episode," Rebout said. "They are very expensive. We have never done an episode on our own without partnering with someone like Beloit or Rock County."
With a full segment, Rebout hopes to more fully showcase all that Janesville has to offer visitors.
"People know about Rotary Gardens, the Tallman House and the Janesville Performing Arts Center," she said. "This time, we want to go a little deeper and show people other things—the holiday lights show at the gardens or the Helen Jeffris Wood Museum—that better match their interests.
"If we split an episode with someone else, we would only get seven to 10 minutes of airtime, and we just couldn't go very deep."
Rebout said "Discover Wisconsin" crews will film in Janesville throughout the year to show the community's seasonal offerings. The crew also will include the community's resources for meeting planners and tour group operators.
She said she'll be able to pay for the production over three years, which allows some of her increased funding to go into other marketing efforts.
Tourism is big business in Rock County. In 2011, visitors spent nearly $175 million in the county, an increase of almost 10 percent over the previous year, according to the state Department of Tourism.
That spending increase, the state reported, translated into local increases in employment, labor income and local, state and federal taxes.