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Prince William County’s tourism efforts are now the job of its parks department

The Prince William County Convention and Visitors Bureau, known as Discover Prince William/Manassas, will be dissolved.

The county’s Board of Supervisors voted to move ahead with a plan to end the nonprofit company with $1.1 million of its majority funding from transient occupancy taxes, known as “TOT” or hotel taxes, and move its employees into the parks and recreation office.

“I don’t want you to leave thinking you’ve done a bad job,” said Potomac District Supervisor Maureen Caddigan to Discover Prince William/Manassas Director Ann Marie Maher. “You’ve done a great job.”

Maher and nine other Discover Prince William/Manassas staff members will become direct employees of the Prince William County Government. The employees will keep their same rates of pay.

The transition could be complete as early as October, and by then we’ll learn if those employees will keep their offices on Balls Ford Road near Manassas, will be merged into the county’s parks and recreation headquarters on Bristow Road, or somewhere else within the county government.

Discover Prince William/Manassas was charged with promoting the region to travelers, tourists, businesses looking to hold meetings and conferences, and sports teams looking to hold tournaments like last month’s Virginia LIttle League Baseball Majors held in Triangle.

The merger into the parks and recreation department comes as Discover Prince William/Manassas was awarded accreditation from Destinations International, formerly the Destination Marketing Association International. It was one of eight organizations to receive the mark recently, and one of only 200 in the world.

An operational audit of Discover Prince William/Manassas ordered by the Board of Supervisors found issues with how the organization was structured. Its board of Directors was made of members appointed by elected county supervisors, staff from Prince William County and Manassas City governments, and members of the travel and restaurants association.

Overall, the audit found Discover Prince William/Manassas largely complied with a 2009 agreement to promote the county and Manassas City. Sources told Potomac Local the county wanted more oversight how the company funds were spent.

Instead of a controlling Board of Directors, Maher will now report to Prince William County Parks and Recreation Director Seth Hendler-Voss.

The move was not popular with all members of Discover Prince William Board of Directors. The motion to proceed with a plan to merge Discover Prince William/Manassas into the parks department passed with seven for, and four against the proposal.

“Every year you have residents coming to you and asking you to fund new projects. Our industry is an economic driver,” said Charles Friend, a Discover Prince William/Manassas Board member and of the Virginia Restaurant and Lodging Association. “The TOT we collect can help you fund the requests you get. This is not going to help our industry bring more people to the county.”

“Even though our entire Board is not in agreement, I do think this is the best move,” said Discover Prince William/Manassas Board of Directors Vice President Rojan Robotham.

Dissolving the non-profit also means Manassas will no longer pay $65,000 to the organization to market the city as a destination. That effort will fall back to the city’s economic development office and Historic Manassas, Inc. which has already been promoting the city’s attractions and events.

Both city and county leaders have vowed to work together to continue to promote the region.

“Prince William County has many great destinations, and we see the city as a unique place to visit, to dine and shop, and we would promote it the very same way we would promote an attraction like Potomac Mills mall,” said Maher.

Tourism and travel in Prince William County and Manassas supports nearly 7,000 jobs and delivers an estimated $608 million in travel-related expenditures in the community annually.

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