Tourism Council approves budget, renews Chamber supportRestaurant Week begins June 14
The Block Island Tourism Council has voted to approve a budget of $256,170 for fiscal year 2014, an appropriation that is $15,390 higher than this year’s budget ($240,780). Increases include $5,500 in promotion costs and about $7,000 in administration costs.
The council agreed to continue $25,000 in financial support of the Welcome Center, run by the Block Island Chamber of Commerce. The chamber also requested an additional $1,000, which the council approved. The support includes the cost of a new phone system. Chamber President Mary Lawless said their current system is “really antiquated.”
There was some discussion on how to approach the upkeep of public bathrooms. Lawless thought it would be necessary to “continue the dialogue with the town” about how critical the town’s collaboration is for bringing tourist revenues that the island economy depend on.
Currently, the chamber rents the Welcome Center building from the town, which is responsible for bathroom maintenance. All agreed this was not done very well. Lawless said, “It doesn’t send a message [of concern] when the bathrooms are unclean and messy.” Vice President John Cullen suggested that the chamber should control management of the building. Kessler said the message to the town should include a reminder of the joint mission of the Tourism Council and the Chamber “to improve, enhance and increase the economy of the island.”
Lawless described a promotional project the Chamber was planning for this spring: Restaurant Week, set to run from June 14 to 23. Seeking support from the Tourism Council, Lawless said she and Executive Director Jess Willi had been discussing the program. While she expects “a learning curve,” Lawless said in order to “get this going, we’ve reached out to a number of restaurants.”
Brad Marthens suggested contacting radio and TV stations. Lawless said she’d been making contact with the media and had expanded the chamber’s presence on social media platforms. She said they were focusing on the Block Island Times and the Summer Times because she felt that emphasis on the local community was very important. “Locals don’t always take advantage of what’s going on here,” Lawless said. “It will be great! These things aren’t just for tourists, but are great for locals. For example, people who work here who might recommend Restaurant Week to others.”
Tourism Council member Steve Filippi suggested a follow-up to the June Restaurant Week in the fall if the spring program was successful.
Lawless said she felt the program should be open to business owners whether they were members of the Chamber or not. “What’s best for the island is to welcome all businesses, serving the membership and serving the public. We want everyone to get involved,” she said.
Wishing to “have it feel like an event on Block Island,” Lawless is hoping approximately 28 restaurants participate. She pointed out that these might range from sandwich shops to sushi bars to full menu restaurants. Some will offer prix fix menus, some tasting options and others kinds of discounts.
Anyone making a funding request to the Tourism Council should do so in writing, Willi said. The request will then be placed on the next meeting’s agenda. Individuals wishing funding should be present. In addition, applicants should know what the council has given them in the past.
Willi announced the Glass Float weekend will begin May 31, at which time 200 floats will be hidden around the island. In July and August another 200 will be hidden. In a scavenger-like hunt, people are encouraged to search for them but take only one. If they find a float, they are asked to post the number and location online at the B.I. tourism website.
The council and chamber are putting together a table at the Unity Luncheon scheduled for May 8 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Willi said. She also noted that she would be attending the Discover New England conference, held in Stowe, Vermont from April 28 to May 1.
The next two meetings were scheduled for May 7 and 21, each at 9 a.m. at Town Hall.