- Associated Press - Monday, February 27, 2017

BRANSON, Mo. (AP) - People working in Branson’s entertainment industry say they’re concerned about a local taxpayer-funded marketing strategy that has become more broadly focused.

The local convention bureau, which is connected to the chamber of commerce, has added messages about family-oriented attractions and outdoors life, the Springfield News-Leader (https://sgfnow.co/2lnK6yP ) reported.

That’s the go-to for people who don’t have anything to advertise,” said Chris Newsom, owner of Classic Country’s Patsy Cline & Friends. “Every other state, every other tourism board, when they don’t have anything to advertise, they default to lakes and outdoors.”

Convention bureau officials said they’re trying to target millions of people in markets more than 300 miles away.

Newsom and others in the show industry say the strategy comes at the expense of theaters. Newsom said shows on the town’s Highway 76 strip are the No. 1 activity Branson has to offer.

The schism has prompted campaigns against city officials, including the mayor and some aldermen. A hashtag, #NotYourGrandmasBranson, seems to have especially bothered some longtime Branson promoters.

“They are so afraid of being an old person’s town, they have totally decided to throw out the baby with the bathwater,” Newsom said.

Diane Fisher, who started tour operator Branson Ticket & Travel in 1989, also raised concerns about convention bureau advertising. Her company brought in about 250 motor coaches filled with show-going tourists in 2016.

“Trust me,” Fisher said. “People come to Branson mostly for shows.”

She said she thinks theaters and show producers have a right to be upset over the perceived focus of convention bureau advertising.

“They just want their fair share of marketing,” Fisher said. “They pay a lot of money in taxes and want to be promoted like everything else.”

Branson Travel Planning Association president Toyea Youngblood said everyone in Branson realizes the town must adapt to market conditions that have changed since the 1990s.

“We have the small-town, hometown atmosphere that I think America is hungry for,” she said. “But we’ve grown up. I don’t know that we know what to do with ourselves now that we’ve grown up.”

Youngblood said she believes consumers are more picky about spending their money today.

“But that is certainly not to say that we need to forsake what has always been Branson’s bread and butter,” she said. “I feel like that has almost taken place.”


Information from: Springfield News-Leader, https://www.news-leader.com

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