Hotel/motel assistance a better option: Hill

Encouraging Farragut’s hotel and motel management to develop a tourism promotion plan, which would help the Town avoid government expense and bureaucracy, sparked debate during the most recent Economic Development Advisory Committee meeting.

As for government expense, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen recently decided to hire a part-time tourism coordinator [see related story on this page].

Speaking against hiring the tourism coordinator was Robin “Bob” Hill, former Farragut Municipal Planning Commission chair and a Farragut resident, who promoted using the Town’s hotel and motel personnel.

“This Town has within its limits, I believe, eight motels. … I don’t see anything in this job description that incorporates the people who actually are benefitting from guests: the motels,” he said during the EDAC meeting Wednesday morning, Oct. 4. “In my opinion the motels here ought to organize themselves … and do the things that you are creating here for the Town to do. … We are not putting the people who have the most to benefit from tourism in charge of it.”

However, committee member William Britt said, “I see a point that you making; however, I don’t see putting the Town’s business, being in a private sector, to make it their business, too. … That’s not what the local businesses are there for,.

They are there to make their own business and flourish in their own way. I don’t see how they should be responsible for the Town’s well-being,” he added.

“The hotels have been asked to be involved in the past, but they had no real interest in being involved,” Ron Williams, Town of Farragut Alderman, said. “They did show up when there was a concern about the hotel-motel tax. But prior to that they had no concern about being involved with any sort of program.

“And if they are not concerned about being involved in a program, the Town has to take it on itself to be involved in doing the program if they want tourism to grow,” Williams added. “… They change managers, and everyone you talk to has got a different opinion. I’ve talked to all of them; Mr. Hill has as well.”

Hill spoke again, briefly, to counter many of Williams’ points.

“His remarks represent a classic big government approach,” Hill said. “We’re here to help. To admit that the hotel/motel community doesn’t want help or want to use help or doesn’t know how to do it is just plain dumb. I think you ought to get them involved now, instead of hiring somebody, and see what the effect is.

“For goodness sakes, be reasonable, be practical. You don’t have the money to do this. They have a business incentive to do that.”

“We’re working with mom-and-pop hotels here,” said Stephen Krempasky, executive director of Shop Farragut/Farragut Business Alliance. “They are not coordinated. It’s not that I don’t think they have an interest, I think they just don’t have the manpower. … I reached out to them about Dog Daze [recent dog jumping competition], they loved it. But they didn’t have staff to follow up on some things.”

Concerning Tennessee Volunteers Football home games and hotel/motel demands it creates, Krempasky said, “they fill all the rooms downtown. They need the Farragut [hotel/motel] rooms.”

About the Town’s ability to “grow special events,” Sue Stuhl, Town’s Parks & Leisure Services director, said, “the staff I have, we’re pretty tapped out on any more special events. But what we can do is partner” with outside entities.

Christine Horwege, committee member, suggested “new ways of thinking about things rather than making someone’s department grow and the cost grow. To look at ways to leverage the non-profits and organizations and really use the brainpower that we have in this community.”

A walking tour of Farragut was one idea presented.

“Julia [Barham, Farragut Museum Historic Resources coordinator] and I have been talking about this for a long time, and that is a walking tour from Founders Park at Campbell Station to Pleasant Forest Cemetery and then to [Farragut] High School, which has some significant things … and then to Town Hall because of the Plaza and the Museum,” Stuhl said. “It’s an interesting little walk people could take, not real long.”