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Visitors bureau expands clerk post to handle bookings

By Paul Huggins · 340-2395

A new effort to aid out-of-towners with booking hotel rooms has quickly grown beyond the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau’s capability.

In response, the bureau board Thursday approved turning a 16-hour-per-week part-time position into a 40-hour, full-time job to handle the growing number of callers needing hotel information.

The bureau started a program called “housing bureau” earlier this year to assist participants of special events like soccer tournaments.

It lets out-of-towners call one number to book rooms instead of calling hotel to hotel. An event official pre-approves a list of hotels and rates.

The housing bureau gave Decatur an extra measure of hospitality that event planners covet and allowed the bureau to better track the number of hotel rooms the events generate.

The housing bureau has already booked 1,500 room nights for 45 of the 150 soccer teams expected to participate in a tournament Nov. 2-3 and 1,000 room nights for 33 of 200 soccer
teams playing the next weekend.

It’s also booking rooms for two more soccer tournaments, four softball tournaments and at least one tennis tournament occurring during the next nine months.

“The numbers show the housing bureau has really taken off and we need help,” said Lori Boger, group sales director of the visitors bureau.

Help to other staff

Bureau President Tami Reist said getting a full-time housing bureau clerk will alleviate the staff from taking as many calls that interfere with finding new visitors to bring to Morgan County.

The budget had money set aside in case the bureau needed to hire additional workers, she added.

Reist also said the housing bureau is a good deal for hotels because they don’t have to use a contract booking service as much, saving them as much as $7 per booking.

Considering the savings, Reist said, she will approach hotels about charging $1 per booking, with that money going back into the housing bureau.

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