Julie Benbow Tapped to Head Visitor's Bureau After Supes Extend Contract


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  • Humboldt County Visitors Bureau
The Humboldt County Visitors Bureau’s board of directors has named Julie Benbow as the tourism organization’s interim executive director.

Benbow steps into the role Tony Smithers held for decades until his unexpected death in January. And the board’s announcement comes on the heels of the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors’ unanimous vote Tuesday to extend the county’s contract with the bureau for another two years.

The board’s vote was a huge win for the bureau, as staff had recommended the board weigh continuing to give the bureau more than $350,000 annually to market Humboldt County against putting those funds out in a competitive request for proposals process. The city of Eureka took that step earlier this year and has since opted to spend its roughly $370,000 in annual marketing funds with another firm. (Two finalists — Humboldt Made and Eddy Alexander, based in Virginia, are currently vying for those funds.)

When the supervisors began discussing the issue Tuesday, it initially appeared the board was seriously considering moving away from the bureau, with Supervisor Estelle Fennell suggesting just a six-month contract, which would have allowed the bureau to continue marketing the county through the tourism season but give the board the flexibility to go in a different direction before next year. Supervisor Virginia Bass seconded Fennell's motion but said she'd like to see the contract extended a bit longer, pointing out that the bureau has been in "turmoil" since Smithers' unexpected death in January.

Supervisor Steve Madrone then voiced strong support for the bureau, saying he'd like to see it given another two years — enough time for it to regroup and develop a plan to work closely with other organizations and the county. Supervisor Rex Bohn liked the idea.

"You guys know I always agree with Supervisor Madrone," he quipped. "Jesus, this is going to be tough: He nailed it. ... I think (the bureau) got a wake up call and what you're going to do is have an invigorated visitors bureau."

As bureau Board President Mark Rowley indicated during public comment at Tuesday’s board meeting, the bureau is working to reinvent itself — conducing a full organizational audit and analyzing everything it is and isn't doing — and in a press release this morning it indicated staff plans to present a new strategic marketing plan to the board by the end of the year.

“The Board is committed to using this time to establish new strategies and collaborations with (the) goal of attracting visitors and increasing tourism revenue throughout Humboldt County,” Rowley said in the press release.

See the bureau’s full press release copied below and watch Tuesday’s board meeting on the issue below (the visitor's bureau conversation begins at the 2:03:00 mark).

News from Humboldt County Visitors Bureau
EUREKA, Ca – On Tuesday May 28th, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors, acknowledging the importance of the tourism industry for economic development, voted unanimously to fund the Bureau for two more years. The Bureau has a history of successful marketing and getting valuable national and international media coverage.  In 2018, tourism brought an estimated $416,000,000 into the County. In the next few months, the Bureau will be working with partners and stakeholders to develop a strategic marketing plan to be presented to the Supervisors by the end of the year.
          With the sudden passing in January of Bureau Director, Tony Smithers, and the redirection of City of Eureka funding, the Board of Directors developed a transition plan and meet regularly to initiate the actions necessary to increase marketing initiatives and strengthen the organization’s scope and membership.
On May 29th, the Board named Julie Benbow the Interim Executive Director to provide support during this process and to lead the Bureau as it moves forwards. Julie comes with thirty years of non-profit leadership in San Francisco and Humboldt County.
“The Board is committed to using this time to establish new strategies and collaborations with goal of attracting visitors and increasing tourism revenue throughout Humboldt County,” said Board President, Marc Rowley.
For more information, please contact Julie Benbow at [email protected] or 707-443-5097.


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