Visit Austin to pay for its own alcohol, promote only Austin musicians – MyStatesman.com

Posted: 5:27 p.m. Thursday, October 12, 2017

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Visit Austin will now use private money to pay for alcohol, and highlight only Austin musicians to clients.

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City leaders delayed approving the bureau’s budget amid criticism of spending on alcohol and Lady Gaga tickets.

Visit Austin, the city’s convention and visitors’ bureau, will no longer use city funding to pay for alcohol, after criticism of its hefty client wine-and-dine tabs halted approval of its 2018 budget last month.

City Council Member Leslie Pool, who raised concerns after a story by KXAN-TV highlighted the marketing bureau’s entertainment expenditures, said Thursday that she’d worked with Visit Austin to resolve them. The council approved Visit Austin’s $17 million 2018 operating budget unanimously. Revisions are still being made to its marketing plan, Pool said.

The KXAN story pointed out Visit Austin spending over the last two years that included thousands of dollars in individual bar tabs, $15,000 in gift cards and $33,000 in tickets to concerts around the country by Lady Gaga, the Dixie Chicks, Adele, Beyoncé, Elton John and Paul McCartney.

Visit Austin staffers said that, as a marketing bureau, their jobs are to woo clients to book conventions in a music-0oriented city with drinks, music and fun. Such expenditures are normal, they said.

BACKGROUND: Visit Austin budget paused after criticism of alcohol, Lady Gaga tab

The approved budget draws $14.8 million of its $17.1 million total budget from Austin hotel taxes, which are designated for expenditures that bring visitors to Austin.

The rest of Visit Austin’s budget comes from private funding, which it will use to pay its bar tabs from now on, its CEO, Tom Noonan, said in a letter to council members Tuesday. The bureau also will commit to highlighting only local Austin musicians, rather than

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