Shoalhaven City Council moved to sponsor a tourism event to the tune of $5000, despite the council's tourism department saying the event did not meet many of their requirements for a sponsorship.
My Travel Festival (formerly known as My Travel Expo) is an event hosted by My Travel Expert to promote global tourism, including tourism products in the Shoalhaven.
It was initially moved that the business be approved for a $5000 donation
Cr Kaye Gartner opposed the motion.
She said many not-for-profit groups were knocked back for donations and would wonder why a for-profit had received financial support.
Cr Mitchell Pakes, however, said the council needed to support the initiative through the tourism budget.
He was supported by Cr Andrew Guile, who said the money was not a gift, but came with the expectation that the Shoalhaven would be promoted at the event.
Cr Joanna Gash said the move opened a can of worms.
"Are we allowing anybody to apply for money from the tourism budget?"
Tourism manager Coralie Bell said the event did not bring people to the Shoalhaven, but encouraged residents to travel out of the region.
"It does not meet our criteria [for a sponsorship]," she said.
"We have four criteria - capacity, return on investment, potential for growth and does it put the region on the map?"
She said the only criteria the event met was capacity, and the sponsorship funds would have to be taken from local events.
Cr Patricia White said if local businesses could not meet sponsorship criteria, the criteria needed to change: "How do you get data [to support an application] when you haven't held the event yet?"
Cr John Levett did not support the motion.
"The Shoalhaven sells itself - I don't think we need to spend $5000," he said.
Organiser Leonie Clay defended the decision, and said the event would draw much-needed visitors to the area in the quiet winter season, as well as showcase Shoalhaven tourism and food.
"Because it is our first time running the event, we couldn't prove how many people we can attract to the area," she said.
"I don't think it opens a can of worms. Each application is looked at on its own merits."