At Monday night’s Committee of the Whole meeting, City and Borough of Juneau Assembly members agreed to take a closer look at the city’s arrangement with Travel Juneau, the private marketing organization for the Juneau area. This photo shows Juneau City Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2020.  (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)

City to consider relationship with Travel Juneau

Committee to explore a competitive bid process

Travel Juneau, the private marketing organization for the Juneau area, may soon have to market itself to the city.

At Monday night’s Committee of the Whole meeting, City and Borough of Juneau Assembly members discussed whether the city’s arrangement with Travel Juneau should move to a competitive bidding process, allowing other marketing firms to pursue the work.

In a 5-4 vote, assembly members agreed to move the proposal to the Lands, Housing and Economic Development Committee for a deeper dive into the question.

“The discussion of the draft ordinance was, overall, positive, with many Assembly members suggesting that putting destination marketing services out to RFP was not the right path and would disrupt continuity,” said Liz Perry, president and CEO of Travel Juneau in an email to the Empire. “Travel Juneau has a 35-year track record of bringing independent travelers and meetings to our community, and has long-standing relationships with media, meeting planners, travel agents and group tour operators.

“This process gives Travel Juneau the opportunity to discuss our work and successes, identify any new metrics that will help demonstrate our performance, and refine our memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the city,” Perry continued.

Travel Juneau, formerly the Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau, has operated since 1985 and is funded by city dollars. If the proposed ordinance is successful, travel marketing services will go from a grant to competitive solicitation, with the assembly maintaining control of the contract and travel marketing services.

Invite your friends to Juneau

“I don’t know of another agency that gets money without competing,” said Assembly member Loren Jones, who introduced the proposal. “ I just think that maybe it’s time to look at that.”

Jones also expressed frustration with the level of metrics that Travel Juneau provides to quantify the group’s marketing activities on the city’s behalf.

Assembly members Michelle Bonnet Hale, Wade Bryson, Carole Triem and Mayor Beth Weldon all opposed the idea of considering a competitive bidding process for the work.

“I’d say this is not the time to revamp our city’s marketing team. This is not the correct action to take. A non-Alaskan firm could win this. I don’t think opening this up to the out-of-state, lowest bidder is the right thing to do,” Bryson said. “To say marketing is not there, that’s false. We were at a record high of visitors in 2019. If people weren’t telling people about Southeast and Juneau, then we would not have so many people. “

Visitor numbers rebound, but hotel vacancies remain high

Assembly member Maria Gladziszewski took a different view from Bryson.

“I think this is a great opportunity to have this conversation. Most people come here because of cruise lines, not what our marketing team is putting out,” she said.

Contact reporter Dana Zigmund at dana.zigmund@juneauempire.com or 907-308-4891.

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