Prior to passing the first reading of the fiscal year 2020 budget, the Ste. Genevieve Board of Aldermen heard from more tourism supporters during last Thursday’s meeting.
During the public comment section of the meeting, Herb Fallert, a former deputy director of the Missouri Division of Tourism and a long-time state representative for this area, spoke in defense of city-funded tourism. So did Cathy Grusling, chair of the French Heritage Festival; and Jim Ferguson, a partner of Fallert’s in the renovation of the historic Hotel Audubon.
Former Mayor Dick Greminger also supported tourism’s role in the community.
After arguing that a large increase in sales tax through the opening of new stores was unlikely, Greminger, mayor from 2003 until 2017, spoke about tourism.
“What’s the biggest thing that we’ve got here that we can capitalize on, that can generate some revenue?” he asked. “Look at the waterpark. What was it, an estimated 12,000 people the first two weekends? If those 12,000 people spent $2 apiece, buying a soda or buying something in the concession stand, your 2.5 percent of that, that’s $600 in sales tax.
“Should we, as a city, be promoting the waterpark? Some people will say, ‘No, that’s the county; that’s their job.’ No, you need to capitalize on it. That’s money in your pocket.”
The historic attractions are something consumers have to come to Ste. Genevieve to get, Greminger argued.
“Tourism is unique to here,” Greminger said. “You can’t buy it on the internet; you’ve got to come here. And again, what other options do you have? What other plan is there to generate more sales tax? It’s the biggest thing out there to take advantage of. And you’re looking at cutting.”
Grusling said she came as a tourist 17 years ago “and fell in love” with the town.
“My husband and I bought a weekend home here 14 years ago, and six years ago we decided to move here permanently,” said Grusling, who works for French Colonial America at the Bolduc House.
“If you go through our downtown areas and look at the businesses how many of those people are really from Ste. Genevieve?” she asked. “The majority of them … people came here as a tourist just like we did, fell in love with this beautiful town and are investing in it.”
See complete story in the September 18 edition of the Herald.