Local hotels are pushing for the creation of a new tourism district to promote Santa Barbara, and they are willing to tax themselves to get it.
The proposal before the city would impose a fee on all hotels, the funds from which would go to the district committee in order to pay for advertisements to attract visitors to the area. Fees would be paid by hotel occupants, who would see an increase anywhere from 50 cents to $2 on their total room fees, depending on the current rate for a room.
Proponents of the district say it would encourage potential tourists to visit Santa Barbara, improving business for hoteliers.
According to Tom Patton, manager of a local Ramada Inn and the chair of a task force in support of the idea, the creation of the district would be an important development for tourism in Santa Barbara.
“The hotels would work together to market and promote this area to increase visitors to our area,” Patton said. “We felt it was important to develop our own stable funding source so we could better market Santa Barbara to compete for the tourists that might be going elsewhere.”
To create the district, over 50 percent of local hotels would need to sign a petition supporting the idea. The city would then create the district and collect money on behalf of the hotels.
Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider said the new idea, in light of the current economic turmoil, is particularly relevant because Santa Barbara is within driving distance for many potential vacationers.
“The more people know what is available, hopefully that is the idea in the long run, is to get more people here and help revenues in the city.”
The current proposal is not the first time hoteliers have attempted to create such as district. A similar plan was proposed in 2007 but was unable to succeed in the face of resistance from smaller businesses. The original plan included a flat $2 fee for all rooms, which was scrapped for the tiered fee system now being proposed.
According to Patton, there are still hoteliers that oppose the plan, but the new system has generated more support among smaller hotels that did not show support in 2007.