With demolition of the local Holiday Inn being delayed to 2018, the Convention and Visitors Bureau of Worthington has several more months to prepare for a slash in funding.
A 6 percent lodging tax – often referred to as a "bed tax" – is assessed on hotels in Worthington, and 66 percent of the money collected provides funding for the bureau; the remaining amount goes into the city's general fund.
In February 2016, plans were announced for a mixed-use "village" concept at the Holiday Inn site, 7007 N. High St., that would include two smaller hotels and several restaurants and retail spaces.
Demolition of the Holiday Inn to make way for the massive redevelopment project was expected to begin in July.
However, the project recently was pushed back to 2018 after property managers for Witness Hospitality extended the use of the Holiday Inn brand through mid-2018, according to Lee Brown, Worthington's planning and development director, and David McCorkle, the economic-development manager.
That delay should buy the bureau more funding for a little longer than expected.
Treasurer Michael Clevenger said he and other bureau leaders have been preparing for the Holiday Inn's closing for months.
"As far back as November, we had already projected out how we could survive through three years without it," Clevenger said.
The bureau's executive director, Mindy Mace, became a part-time employee last year to cut costs, and the bureau has been scaling back its marketing efforts, he said.
With a potential July demolition for the Holiday Inn, the bureau was expected to receive $50,000 to $60,000 from local bed-tax collections for the year, Clevenger said. That amount now should double, he said.
Clevenger said bureau leaders are treating the extra time like a bonus, not an expectation.
"We are just being very cautious in our plan about any marketing we do and relying a lot on social media and (Mace's) personal contacts with Experience Columbus and the tour groups that are coming in," he said. "We're just waiting to see and being very cautious with our finances until we know more."
Annina Parini, a board member with the CVB and executive director of the Old Worthington Partnership, said the bureau is an important part of the city, especially after the joint establishment of Experience Worthington and its website, experienceworthington.com.
"This past year, we've had a wonderful relationship develop with the CVB," she said, referencing the Old Worthington Partnership. "We collaborated on our new website, and that's a 50-50 partnership in terms of how it was developed and funded. "
Although Parini said the Old Worthington Partnership is growing in strength and influence, she doesn't see its focus as overlapping with the CVB.
"Attracting tourists to Worthington is something that we are not equipped to do, so having a healthy, strong, well-connected CVB is very important to Worthington," she said. "(Mace) has a long career in the tourism industry and Worthington benefits incredibly from her experience, so we're very close partners with them and we see it as integral for someone to focus on tourism ... especially when we have two beautiful new hotels on that (Holiday Inn) site in the future."
Clevenger said the CVB already has prepared to bounce back after funding from the bed tax resumes.
"I don't think it will be a tough process," he said. "Traditionally, we've done a fair amount of print advertisement, and that's contracted year to year. Our executive director has been continuing to actively work with tour groups and inquiries, so I don't think it will be tough to get back to full speed.
"We'll just have to expand our marketing budget and look where it's most appropriate to spend that money."