Visit Bend leaders have declined a request from Deschutes County Commissioner Tammy Baney to sit down with Central Oregon Visitors Association for a one-on-one meeting between the organizations.
Baney, who is also a board member of COVA, hoped to bring leaders of the groups together at a sort of tourism summit on June 5 to discuss what appeared to be a degree of conflict over coordination, redundant efforts and tourism industry funding that’s come to a head in recent months, according to Baney and other sources.
Baney had proposed a morning meeting of Visit Bend and COVA, and an afternoon session with the other three tourism marketing groups in Deschutes County at the summit. Those groups are located Sisters, Redmond and La Pine. All groups receive transient room tax dollars to market our region to visitors.
While Visit Bend leaders said they are looking forward to getting all five tourism groups together, Visit Bend Director Doug LaPlaca said the proposed meeting between just COVA and Visit Bend would be inappropriate and that there is no conflict between the two organizations.
Jodie Barram, a member of Visit Bend's board of directors and a Bend city councilor, had emailed with Baney about frustration over some aspects of the meeting last week as reported in The Bulletin. Baney learned of the group's determination not to attend on Tuesday, she said in an earlier interview.
The news of Visit Bend declining the one-on-one meeting came as a surprise to Alana Houston, director of COVA, when the Source contacted her for comment on this story today, despite that Visit Bend leaders had made the decision not to attend the meeting earlier this week. Lack of communication between the groups is one issue Baney aimed to address at the meeting.
LaPlaca cited several reasons for declining the sit down.
One, any meeting about tourism in Deschutes County should include all five tourism groups. Two, Visit Bend and COVA are already meeting on a regular basis about becoming more effective. Three, Deschutes County funding of the meeting would be a poor use of public funds because the two groups are already meeting. Four, Visit Bend would also not feel comfortable with an anonymous private donor funding the facilitator for a Visit Bend/COVA meeting because that would create a problem with transparency.
“There are five destination marketing organizations in Deschutes County,” wrote Visit Bend Director Doug LaPlaca in an email earlier today. “It is inappropriate for Visit Bend and COVA to…have these conversations without involvement from other DMOs.”
Houston was disappointed to hear that Visit Bend had declined the meeting, but said she could not comment extensively until learning more.
“We would have loved to have the chance for the two boards to come together,” said Houston. “But…we really can’t force anybody to the table.”
Baney could not be reached for comment.