A proposal for a Cullman County Convention and Visitors Bureau was met with approval from some hotel and attraction managers Friday.

Amy Rama and Donna Scarbrough, president and vice-president of the Cullman County Hospitality Association, spoke at a County Commission work session Thursday, asking for support in creating a bureau to bring more visitors to Cullman County.

Eugenie Breaux, tourism/pilgrims director of the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, said she supported the idea, but there were other things Cullman also needed to do to increase tourism, like offer more taxi service to transport visitors around the county.

"I think it'd be a great idea," she said of a visitors bureau.

Breaux said many visitors to the Shrine stay overnight in Birmingham, a point Rama and Scarbrough made to the Commission. They said more coordinated efforts could attract more visitors to stay in Cullman hotels, spending their money with local merchants.

Charlie Patel, manager of the Econo Lodge motel, said it was a "pretty good idea."

"That is a tool we need to bring in the Cullman area," Patel said.

Patel said more advertising could increase the number of visitors coming to Cullman.

Rama and Scarbrough's proposal created some controversy with their suggestion that a convention and visitor's bureau receive lodging tax money earmarked for promoting tourism. The Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce currently receives 40 percent of receipts from the county's 5 percent lodging tax, intended for programs to attract visitors.

Rama and Scarbrough said a local legislator, whom they did not name, said he would support their plan if the Commission also did.

Rep. Neal Morrison said Friday he met with Rama and Scarbrough about two weeks ago, but never said he was in favor of redirecting money from the Chamber.

Calls to Rep. Jeremy Oden and state Sen. Zeb Little were not returned Friday.

Morrison said he encouraged the Hospitality Association to air their concerns with officials from the Chamber of Commerce and County Commission.

"I never talked to any group, them or anyone else, about the tax issue," Morrison said. " ... Right now, unless somebody shows me something totally different, I'm not in favor of taking money away from anybody. Now, I am in favor of folks working things out together."

Morrison said he is in favor of efforts to bring more tourism to Cullman, calling it the "cleanest industry." He said he's been told that for every dollar spent on attracting visitors, communities earn $7 in economic activity.

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