HATS OFF – Sitka High School graduates toss their mortarboards in the air after receiving their degrees Monday night in the Sitka High gym. This year 74 seniors graduated in a ceremony that included addresses by teacher Howard Wayne and class representative Nai’a Nelson, a performance by the symphonic band and a video of graduates. A car parade was held after the ceremony. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

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Daily Sitka Sentinel

Visit Sitka Seeks Increase in Budget

By SHANNON HAUGLAND

Sentinel Staff Writer

The Assembly will hold a work session tonight on the Visit Sitka budget request of $665,880 to manage convention and visitor services for the city.

The nonprofit organization is asking for $665,880, which is up from the $525,000 the Assembly approved for the current year. 

The work session starts at 6 p.m. at Harrigan Centennial Hall.

Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Rachel Roy, who also is head of Visit Sitka, said the higher request matches the increase in bed tax receipts from FY2021 to FY2022.

“We’re asking for the amount collected in bed tax in FY22,” Roy said. “This will help us sustain our programs and will cover additional projects such as scoping for vehicular and pedestrian wayfinding, developing a Tourism Best Management Practices program, and developing our destination.”

Explaining the latter project, Roy referred to a study of visitor experiences during the summer of 2022, which suggested such improvements as better visitor information, accessibility and beautification, among about 100 recommendations by consultant Roger Brooks, from Destination Development Association.

The bed taxes are deposited into the city Visitor Enhancement Fund, and used for “enhancement of tourism and visitor-related activities,” according to Sitka General Code. The code said that includes funding for “a convention and visitors bureau,” and travel expenses for city officials to attend travel-related conventions. Most of the funding goes to Visit Sitka.

Sitka saw a full visitor season in 2022, following a sharp downturn during the pandemic. Sitka collected $554,000 in bed taxes in FY2019. In fiscal year 2020, the figure was $403,000, and in 2021 it was $407,024.

The $665,880 collected in fiscal year 2022 reflects bed tax collected from the second half of the 2021 visitor season, and first half of the 2022 visitor season.

Roy added that the request for the full amount collected last year should leave funds in the city’s Visitor Enhancement Fund to be spent on city-related visitor costs.

Visit Sitka is focused on marketing and advertising for independent travelers; providing services to independent travelers; providing information to cruise travelers; and attracting conventions.

“It is important for us to continue having a robust program, in order to attract independent visitors, to give them access to information so they can have good experiences so they return, and supporting a good visitor experience for cruise visitors so they will come back as independent travelers,” she said. “If we don’t tell people about Sitka, no one will. That’s our job.”

Visit Sitka has three employees, plus Roy, who divides her time between Visit Sitka and the Chamber. She added that Visit Sitka is looking for another full-time staff member focused on membership and conventions, and seasonal staff to provide information to visitors.

The information packet Visit Sitka prepared for the Assembly meeting includes information about visitor numbers, including the upward trends of both air and cruise passengers.

“In 2023 we are projecting over 100,000 independent travelers to Sitka for the year,” it says.

City Finance Director Melissa Haley said the level of funding for Visit Sitka is at the discretion of Assembly members, who meet with Visit Sitka during the budget process before committing to a level of funding each year.

 

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20 YEARS AGO

May 2004

Dr. Arthur Cleveland, a former dean at Columbus State University in Georgia, was named the new president of Sheldon Jackson College, SJC officials announced today. He will be replacing C. Carlyle Haaland, who has held the position for four years.


50 YEARS AGO

May 1974

Coaching and managing the Little League teams this year are John Abbott and John Calhoun, ANB; Dale and DeWayne Vilandre, Alaska Federal; Walt Barker, Elks; Frank Simmons and Frank Vilandre, Lions; Leo Bacon, Pat Ness, Cliff Robards and Bob Edenso, Moose; and Everett Webb, Sportsmen. Head umpire is Carl Karpstein.

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