Representatives from the Effingham Chamber of Commerce and the Convention and Visitors Bureau vowed Wednesday to find projects on which the two groups can combine forces.
But what they didn’t do at their meeting at the Chamber offices was broach the topic of the Chamber’s tourism committee and the CVB merging.
“The ultimate goal of the two organizations is not all that different,” said CVB member Ruth Lee. “The ultimate goal of tourism is economic development, and the tourist dollars are so important.”
“The CVB has been a hard-working group,” Lee said. “It’s been difficult. To do big events, we need some help.”
The CVB raised money through its Camp Davis observation in May, and the Chamber is asking the county and city to consider a hotel-motel tax. Proceeds from that tax would go to tourism development.
Chamber President Talbert Edenfield said that organization has manpower through its membership to augment the CVB’s needs.
“Tourism is a part of what we do,” he said. “Our goal is to try bring people to do business with our members. We see tourism as bringing folks to spend their dollars in Effingham County. We all have the same problems in resources and manpower.”
Edenfield suggested looking at ways to combine efforts, especially in terms of manpower and funding.
“The backing of the Chamber, I feel, that would be great,” said CVB member Reggie Loper.
The CVB is planning an event around the old Confederate hospital in Guyton, which was set up during the Civil War. The CVB is attempting to hold an event every year during the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.
“That can be a huge thing,” Lee said. “But it takes a huge amount of work to make it happen.”
Getting the word out about Effingham’s potential tourist sites also has been a challenge.
“The history is here,” Reggie Loper said. “But nobody knows about it. Even in Effingham County, people don’t know about it.”
Loper cited a tour of local history teachers to some of the county’s most noted historic sites, and he recalled how teachers expressed they didn’t know anything about those places.
The CVB’s mission is to promote and educate, not only in the county but statewide and nationally, said chairperson Sherry Loper.
“Our goal is economic development, so to speak,” she said. “We focus on getting tourists here.”
Yet CVB representatives noted the difficulty in getting tour groups to Effingham, even with the county’s treasure trove of history. Reggie Loper pointed out the lack of facilities needed to accommodate a tour group.
“That’s why we’ve been hesitant to bring large groups here,” Sherry Loper said. “The infrastructure (need) is huge. When you bring them, you better be ready for them. Because if you’re not ready for them, they will not come back.”
Guyton holds its annual “Sale on the Trail” in conjunction with one of the bluegrass festivals staged at nearby Mossy Oak Music Park. Pearl Boynes, a CVB member, said they are developing a brochure for the city’s walking trail.
Lott also pointed out how Allen Lanier of Mossy Oak Music Park provides packets for his visitors about local shopping and attractions.
Chamber member Dinah King said funding is an issue for both organizations, and CVB member Clarence Morgan worried that both groups were tapping continually the same people for financing.
“We definitely have the same goal,” he said. “We do support each other. But we’re draining the same people.”