Auditor: Visit KC Needs More Accountability

By Ian Ritter

The City Auditor’s Office has released a report saying that Visit KC, the city’s economic development agency devoted to promoting tourism, is not reporting its finances in a way that gives a clear picture of how it spends money.

Visit KC hasn’t made regular reports of its performance and compared them to prior target goals that were identified, for areas such as convention center bookings, convention attendance and sales conversion rates. The report also says that the auditor can not accurately determine how its $11 million budget was spent or its return on investment.

Meanwhile, the reported outlines a conflict of interest between Visit KC and advertising agency MMGY Global, who’s president and CEO, Clayton Reid, is an ex-officio board member. The auditor says that Visit KC did not follow RFP recommended practices when awarding the agency at multi-million dollar advertising contract, leading to “the appearance of a conflict of interest with MMGY.

In its annual report, Visit KC says that the marketing program with MMGY led to 292,000 hotel room nights and an economic impact of $73 million. “Reaching seven media markets in six states, the campaign generated a new record return on investment of $99 for every dollar spent by Visit KC,” the annual report said.

The auditor made a number of recommendations for Visit KC going forward, including the requirement of its board members to submit annual financial disclosures, the implementation of penalties for not meeting performance targets, a clarification of how city-provided money is spent, and not including facilities outside of the city limits in its performance data. 

Last month Mayor Quinton Lucas announced his appointments to the Visit KC board, which makes up half of its 30 members, and 10 of them are new to the board.