City council OKs tourism committee, temporary hotel tax

09/12/2013 6:45 AM

09/12/2013 6:45 AM

Wichita’s tourism marketing efforts will be ramped up under a plan that includes a proposal for an expanded hotel tax.

The City Council this week approved the creation of an 11-member tourism business improvement planning committee, the first step in an expanded hotel tax that could raise an additional $3million to prop up Go Wichita’s $500,000 marketing budget.

The committee will create a temporary tourism business improvement district – or TBID – to assess an additional charge on guest nights in the city’s hotels. The boundaries of the TBID will be determined by the committee, but typically include the city limits, said Wichita City Manager Robert Layton and Susie Santo, who heads Go Wichita.

According to Santo’s office and city documents, the performance of other TBIDs suggests the extra marketing could increase hotel occupancy by 6 percent and grow hotel revenue by $12million with increased frequency and reach. The duration of the TBID isn’t clear, but city documents say it will include a sunset date “to ensure accountability to the municipality and the hotel owners.”

“We can’t get more reach right now with their budget,” Layton said. “They have a wonderful campaign ... but when you do a first-class piece that gets people’s attention, shows the strengths of our area for tourism, with the current budget you only get so much reach.”

It is not clear, however, how much of the tax revenue would go toward the creation of new marketing positions, if any, at Go Wichita.

“I think I’d be jumping the gun on that,” Santo said. “We need to understand the scope and parameters of what the committee wants. Looking at other cities, the money is used in different mechanisms, but traditionally in the marketing of the city.”

The committee, which will include nine hoteliers and two council members, also will decide the amount of the tax – either a flat amount per night or a percentage of the room rate tacked on hotel guest bills.

“Our idea is to go in with nothing specific, but let the committee determine what that might be,” Layton said. “However, the preliminary work that’s been done is a $2 fee, but that’s just a point of reference.”

Jim Korroch, who runs the Courtyard by Marriott in Old Town and the Fairfield Inn & Suites at the WaterWalk, says he doesn’t know any hotel operators who oppose the extra tax.

“I very much think it will pay for itself,” Korroch said. “From the numbers I’ve seen, Wichita, in comparison to similar size cities, is well below the guest tax standard.

“This is very nominal, and I think it will have a real positive impact.”

There have been more than 100 such districts created in the United States, according to the city, mostly in California.

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