As a Huntersville-Lake Norman area resident and a small business owner in the travel business, I have been following and find very interesting the articles and editorials regarding the north Mecklenburg town’s initial efforts to create a tourism task force for the purpose of redirecting accommodation tax revenues. If, in fact this task force was formed without the invitation of our local experts i.e. – hoteliers, Visit Lake Norman staff, chamber staff – then as a local business owner it becomes worrisome. It implies that it has gone beyond intent, and steps have already been taken to redirect this money to areas, which would have a negative impact on the growth of our communities, growth that we need to drive new customers through our doors.

I would imagine most of our residents have little idea what Visit Lake Norman does to promote our region. If it was just about selling a hotel bed to a weary Interstate 77 traveler, we might rename our three towns Lake Norman Rest Stop. Visit Lake Norman goes far beyond this in creating and maintaining an image that makes Lake Norman a viable destination for hosting world-class events. These marketing efforts include promoting the strength of our resources, community involvement, safety, beauty, climate and more. In our business, when recommending destinations to our clients, we don’t just guess but often look at the integrity of a region through reports and efforts of local convention-and-visitors bureaus. We need them!

What happens when Visit Lake Norman is under funded or gone? Will our town leaders then form independent town-level tourism divisions? If so, I would ask why? Do we need three? Wouldn’t this cost more as a whole than the one we already have?

I am aware that Visit Lake Norman creates $24.26 for every $1 invested, and in fiscal year 2009-10, events recruited by that organization resulted in $11.9 million in visitors spending. Travel and tourism is a big business in the Lake Norman region, with not only the hotels and restaurants but also the boat dealers, marinas and other businesses supported by the industry.

While I understand the towns need to prioritize spending and look closely at where they are investing dollars, there is perhaps no better investment than the Visit Lake Norman organization. I believe our mayors and leaders should consider a different approach and embrace Visit Lake Norman for what it is – the single most important organization we have focusing on generating the much-needed tourism revenue all of our towns need to survive. Instead of cutting the funding have you thought about increasing it? If $1 generates a 2326-percent return think what $2 would do!

– Tim Stein, Huntersville