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February 7, 2013

Hotel assoc. upset with Chamber over lack of trade show attendance

After cutting ties with the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce last week, the local hotel association has released a statement saying members are upset over the Chamber’s recent decision not to attend a trade show.

The Cullman Hospitality Association represents the eight local hotels in Cullman that had been members of the Chamber, as well as two others. All that were Chamber members resigned last week citing a lack of representation in the organization.

In a new statement released Tuesday night, hotel officials say they are disappointed the Chamber has decided not to attend the Lifestyles Expo in Orange Beach, Ala., scheduled for today.

“Our position remains the same that tourism is not well served nor well represented within the Chamber ... This is a major trade show for Cullman since it markets our town as a stop for retirees heading to and from the Gulf,” the association stated. “This is one of the few events that Cullman's tourism industry is represented and has great potential. The Chamber has canceled their reserved space as of today. Cullman has been represented in this Expo for 15 years. Cullman’s tourism industry as a whole will sadly not be represented in Orange Beach this year.”

When contacted by The Times, recently appointed Chamber president Leah Bolin confirmed the Chamber will not attend the expo, saying the decision is an internal matter. She declined to elaborate further.

“We will not address the other issues through the media,” Bolin said in a prepared response. “The Chamber of Commerce’s Executive Committee and myself look forward to an opportunity to sit down and discuss any grievances the Cullman Hospitality Association has with the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce.”

The association went on to express frustration with the Chamber’s communication efforts, saying they would still like to have a meeting with the Chamber board. Chamber representatives said last week they planned to reach out to the association with hopes of resolving the split.

“The Chamber of Commerce has written a letter to some, but not all of the hotels after the hotels' withdrawal of their Chamber memberships. They reportedly attempted to visit two of the hotels. No one knew of the proposed visits, therefore management at neither hotel was available to speak to them,” the association stated. “This selective communication seems to be normal for how the Chamber does business with the hotels. We are confused as to how the determination is made as to which hotels receive communication as eight hotels were Chamber members. We are again asking for a meeting between the Chamber of Commerce and the Cullman Hospitality Association since all hotels would be represented and not just one or two.”

Bolin disputed claims that communication efforts have been one-sided, saying the executive committee has made every effort to address the hotel association’s concerns and set up a meeting between the two sides.

“Let me clarify. The executive committee and I did address the entirety of the hotels’ concerns. A fax was sent to the Cullman Hospitality Association the same day the association sent their fax of resignation. This consisted of 10 hotels, eight of which were chamber members,” Bolin said in a prepared response. “We made attempts in person, fax, and via phone to the hotel from which the fax was received. Each of these attempts were made to reconcile this situation. To my knowledge there has been no attempt to contact this Chamber by the hoteliers.”

A hotel association representative did not return a request for additional comment by deadline of this article.

Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at trentm@cullmantimes.com, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.

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