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By DAN GUZEWICH Staff writer

County lawmakers are being asked to approve the contract with county’s tourism agency when they meet Wednesday.

The agreement that will expire Sept. 30 allocates all of the proceeds from the 2 percent county room occupancy tax to fund the operations of the Oneida County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Inc., also known as Oneida County Tourism.

The tax charged at hotels, motels and bed-and-breakfasts of all sizes generated nearly $800,000 to support tourism promotional activities in the last fiscal year.

President Kelly Blazosky and her staff spread the word about Oneida County at a number of trade and travel shows, especially in the winter months. They range from meetings aimed at tour bus operators to rail, and golf shows to snowmobile expos. Locations in the last year included in-state ones as well as more distant venues like Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Canada.

Additionally, Oneida County Tourism is part of the Canal New York Marketing and Business Alliance, which presented information on the state’s historic, cultural and recreational canal opportunities at shows in San Francisco and London. Blazosky attended the London show in November and had appointments with travel trade professionals and media representatives.

There’s also an advertising program that involves print, television and digital. Last year’s TV ads outside of Oneida County were targeted at baby boomers, families and golfers.

The agency received nearly 16,000 requests for last year’s travel guide, according to the most recent annual report. Guides that focus on specific areas are also produced, like the snowmobile brochure that came out last week.

The visitors bureau’s website attracted 23,086 visits from viewers in 75 countries between Aug. 31, 2010, and Aug. 31, 2011.

New last year was a tourism marketing grant assistance program that awarded $81,825 to 20 tourism-related entities.

The contract spells out what the tourism agency must do to develop and promote tourism in the county to earn its money. Its duration — Oct. 1, 2011, to Sept. 30 of this year — was shortened over earlier ones because there is talk of revising its terms. There are no changes in the agreement before the Board of Legislators other than extending the expiration date to this fall, said Assistant County Attorney Harris J. Samuels. The next nine months provide a window for conversations between county officials and the agency.

At issue is how some of the money from the tax is to be spent now that the yearly amount has increased substantially as a result of the tax being levied on the 700 plus rooms at the Oneida Indian Nation’s Turning Stone Resort and Casino. The tax was not charged at Turning Stone until 2010.

Here are some of the current requirements:

-- Operate the information center at the Utica Thruway interchange.

-- Attend and participate in travel-related shows and displays.

-- Promote the county as a site for meetings and conventions.

-- Assist meeting planners.

-- Support and promote motor coach programs attracting visitors to the county.

-- Manage the state matching funds program in the county.

-- Operate visitors information displays.

-- Prepare materials marketing the county as a destination for tourists, and meetings and conventions.

Separately, the occupancy tax was renewed by legislators last month for an additional three years, through Dec. 31, 2014.

Also on this week’s agenda is resolution enacting annual ban on dogs running loose during the winter to prevent deer depredation.

Additionally, it is expected that a proposed local law to cut the size of the legislature by six seats will be placed on legislators’ desks for action at the Feb. 8 meeting. This assumes that the proposal makes it out of the Ways & Means Committee meeting earlier in the day.

The board meets at 2 p.m. Wednesday at the County Office Building. Ways & Means meets at 11 a.m.

RomeSentinel.com

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