The Santa Barbara City Council completed the final procedures to initiate the Tourism Business Improvement District plan yesterday, which imposes a new charge on guests of county hotels.
Funds collected from the fee will raise money for marketing and advertising that targets tourists and event coordinators. According to Jill Taura, treasury manager of Santa Barbara’s Finance Dept., the plan will ultimately create supplementary funds that will, ultimately, benefit lodging businesses.
“This is an assessment fee of hotels [and motels] that would receive benefit fees of the generated dollars,” Taura said. “This will generate about $1.8 million per year, and will be effective Jan. 1, 2011.”
Taura said the plan has been a hot topic for the past three years, with hotel owners taking the reigns of the movement toward increased tourism in the area. Now, Santa Barbara County — which includes Santa Barbara, Goleta, Carpinteria and portions of unincorporated areas — is one of over 50 counties in California to become an officially recognized tourist destination under TBID guidelines.
According to Taura, a small number of lodgings that would be affected by TBID protested against the resolution.
“We received only five written protests, representing 3.9 percent of the lodgings,” Taura said. “We held a public hearing and we had only three hotels protest. Several community members spoke in support of the resolution, and there were only two that spoke against.”
The Santa Barbara Conference & Visitors Bureau will be responsible for administrating TBID, overseeing all of the county assessment fees and distributing sales benefits to lodgings that pay over 50 percent of their assessment fees each year.
The protesting lodging managements assert that the fees are unnecessary and wrongly charge customers who already have to pay a 12 percent Transient Occupancy Tax. According to a Marina Beach Motel representative, who asked to remain anonymous, customers already pay a tax when visiting Santa Barbara and should not have to pay any additional fees.
“It’s more tax on the tourists that come into Santa Barbara,” the representative said. “It’s ridiculous.”
In response to such claims, Taura said that the tax and the fees are not related, as the tax is through the state and TBID is a county fee that will not affect county citizens.
“The fee is only levied to people who stay in hotels,” Taura said.
She said that the current tax goes to the city to support maintenance and upkeep of Santa Barbara streets, beaches, creeks, business and residential areas.
“Ten percent goes to the city’s general fund and is designated to keeping our city nice, to keep our tourists coming back,” Taura said. “The remaining two percent was approved by voters some years back, and is used to keep creeks and beaches clean.”
Still, some businesses feel the fee is burdensome and are reluctant to support the newly approved TBID.
Ethan Moses, an employee of Inn of the Spanish Garden, could not issue a statement on behalf of the Inn but shared his personal opinion on the assessment fees.
“I’d say I’d be against it,” Moses said. “I’d rather money go to the city than to tourism.”