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Burbank as a tourist spot? Hotels may tax customers to say so

September 07, 2010|By Bill Kisliuk, bill.kisliuk@latimes.com

The city's major hotels could soon end up playing a greater role in marketing Burbank as a tourist stop under a proposal at City Hall that has industry support.

The creation of a tourism business improvement district, in which the hotels would charge an additional fee, usually 1% or 2%, on customers to promote local attractions and tourism also has strong backing on the City Council. That body voted 4-1 last week to move forward with the proposal.

More than 50 California cities have launched similar districts and 16 others are in the works, according to a city report that also found more than half the hoteliers in Burbank favor the idea.

"We said yes to the [district] because it is something that a majority of them have expressed an interest in," Mayor Anja Reinke said. "Any business generated from the hotels is also good for the entertainment industry, restaurants and shopping."

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But Councilman David Gordon, who was the lone dissenter on the council, said he was not pleased with the results of a business improvement district in Magnolia Park, and that smaller hotels would gain less from the marketing effort than larger ones.

"It's an added layer of taxation at a very difficult economic time," Gordon said. "And it is not clear that it is going to be uniformly beneficial."

Representatives for the Marriott Burbank Airport Hotel and Holiday Inn, the two largest hotels in the city, either did not return phone calls or declined to comment on the proposal.

Tom Whelan, general manager of the Hotel Amarano, said he favored the district.

He said many other cities, such as Redlands, Pasadena and Santa Clarita, have created tourism districts.

"Santa Clarita is not the media capital of the world, we are," he said. "Let's not be left behind. Burbank is just a great city and we need to let people know and meet Burbank."

Whelan favors using the money to promote off-season events, and said other cities sponsor bike races, car shows and festivals to draw visitors.

Separately, the City Council voted 3-2 to explore the idea of increasing the city's transient occupancy tax, currently a 10% tax on hotel rooms. Unlike tourism district funds, occupancy tax money goes directly to the city and is used for purposes other than promotion. It also requires a vote of city residents.

Burbank City Manager Mike Flad advised the council last week to delay consideration of an increase to the tax and proceed instead with placing an updated utility users tax on the 2011 ballot.

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