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Daytona’s Main Street merchants seek to expand Biketoberfest

By CLAYTON PARK, Business writer
January 18, 2012 12:30 AM

2012 Bike Events

Bike Week: March 9-19 Biketoberfest: Oct. 18-21 (currently planned dates) Proposed expanded dates for Biketoberfest: Oct. 19-28

DAYTONA BEACH — Main Street merchants receive a welcome boost each fall when the area hosts the Daytona Beach Biketoberfest, the annual four-day motorcycle rally that attracts more than 100,000 visitors.

What would make the event even better, they say, is if it could be expanded to 10 days, like the annual Bike Week event that takes place here each March and which draws an estimated 600,000 visitors.

The Halifax Area Advertising Authority board of directors today will consider a proposal by the Biketoberfest Development Committee to expand this year’s fall motorcycle rally to Oct. 19-28 so that it includes two full weekends instead of just one. It is currently set to be held Oct. 18-21.

The event was started 20 years ago by the Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau as a way to provide boost the local tourism industry during what is normally a slow time of year. The visitors bureau, which continues to organize the event each year, is overseen by the HAAA board.

Tom Guest, chairman of the event’s development committee and a former longtime Main Street merchant, said one of the motivations for expanding this year’s Biketoberfest is the increased competition from other Central Florida communities, which now hold motorcycle festivals of their own, including the annual Sanford Bike Fest, which is the weekend before Biketoberfest.

“We’ve invested a lot of resources to build this brand and a 10-day event would allow us to remain competitive within the region,” the committee wrote in its proposal that will be presented to the HAAA board this afternoon.

The HAAA board meeting is scheduled from 2-4 p.m. at the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce/Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau building, 126 E. Orange Ave.

Guest said the proposal to expand Biketoberfest was brought up be several Main Street merchants immediately following Biketoberfest this past fall. The committee voted unanimously to recommend it to the HAAA board. If the proposal wins the board’s approval, the final step will be to seek a green light from the City Commission, he said.

“We feel in this economic distress that this community is in that this will bring in a lot of money,” Guest said, adding that Biketoberfest each year creates “thousands of local jobs.” Those temporary workers could be employed for 10 days, instead of just four, if the event is expanded, he said.

Guest said expanding Biketoberfest would also likely result in increasing attendance closer to the number who come to Bike Week. Some visitors might decide to come to Biketoberfest instead of Bike Week, which could reduce overcrowding at that spring event, which is put on by the Daytona Regional Chamber, he said.

Guest added that he and the other committee members would like to see Biketoberfest become a 10-day event from here on out.

The visitors bureau tried expanding Biketoberfest to 10 days one time before, in 2004 to boost tourism in the wake of the hurricanes that year.

The Biketoberfest event that year failed to draw as many visitors as hoped because the decision to expand it was made at the “last-minute,” in September, which did not give the visitors bureau sufficient time to promote it, Guest said.

That would not be the case this year, he said.

City Commissioner Pam Woods said she doesn’t buy the argument that expanding Biketoberfest to 10 days would be good for the local economy, because all it would do is create “short-term, low-end, low-wage jobs,” with much of the revenues generated going to “itinerant vendors.”

Some of those vendors are non-local as opposed to businesses that are here all year long, she said.

What’s more, Woods said, while special events like Bike Week and Biketoberfest help some local businesses, others suffer because many local residents don’t go out during those events because of the traffic congestion.

“What I want to see us do is work on a plan to create long-term jobs that provide a livable wage,” she said. “I want to see tourism that is sustainable and year-round, not these little bursts.”

Woods said the HAAA board technically doesn’t need the City Commission’s permission to expand Biketoberfest if it is simply a matter of adding events and allowing existing business to sell goods outside their shops that they normally carry.

The real issue, in seeking the commission’s approval, she said, has to do with allowing these “itinerant vendors” to do business here 10 days instead of just four.

She said she likely would oppose that request.

Ted Doran, chairman of the HAAA board, is set to address the City Commission at its meeting tonight, which begins at 6 p.m., but said he isn’t sure whether he will bring up the Biketoberfest proposal.

Doran said he would prefer his board to defer its own decision at least a month so it can study the proposal further.

“From my perspective, this thing isn’t ready for the HAAA board to make a decision because the city has to take a position first,” he said

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