Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Sunday

February 23, 2014

Editorial: Tourism leaders off mark in assault on festival critics

For the record, those who question how much tourism is too much tourism are not anti-American; retirees have the right to speak; not embracing every “festival” that comes along does not make someone anti-tourism or anti-anything.

Conversely, luring visitors here is a key part of the region’s economy; tourism promoters are often not the same people who create festivals and events; and for most of them, this is business.

None of that is likely to make a difference to the die-hards on both sides of this issue, but being civil is a must.

Our tourism debate is not new, but the temperature has risen over “festival fatigue,” a malady suffered mostly by city residents who say the city - and the Open Space - are home to too many festivals. The issue was further fueled by comments from Bad Van Dommelen, president and CEO of Traverse City Tourism (formerly the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau).

In an October Record-Eagle interview, Van Dommelen rightly warned against linking tourism with festivals, many of which are essentially local events,

“I think we have to be very careful about our discussion in that area,” he said. “I understand the issue but we have to be very, very careful we don’t swing the pendulum too far in the other direction or have a knee-jerk reaction ... a lot of the festivals ... are local events. We can’t throw tourism under the bus in the discussion about events and festivals.”

But Van Dommelen took a very different stance - and tone - when the festival fatigue issue hit the city commission in December. Commissioner Barbara Budros said tourism drains city infrastructure from trash pickup to wear and tear on city streets, parks, and other services.

“Tourists come here and put money into the area’s businesses; they don’t put any money into the city’s general fund,” she said.

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