Seattle to establish dedicated fund for tourism marketing

Steve’s breakdown: So here’s another one we predicted. We didn’t know how it was going to go down and suspect this is only the first of a few accounts to happen because of the state’s decision to cut tourism financing.

SEATTLE, WA: City Councilmembers Tim Burgess and Jean Godden, Mayor Mike McGinn and King County Executive Dow Constantine, announced a new initiative this morning to raise millions of dollars to promote tourism in Seattle.

When adopted by the City Council, the initiative will create a dedicated source of funding for tourism marketing and promotion by imposing a $2 per night surcharge on certain hotel rooms. The fund is being proposed to fill a void in tourism promotion as both the State and City are eliminating their direct support of tourism marketing efforts. Due to severe budget cuts, Washington recently became the only state to not fund tourism promotion.

“Tourism is a critical component of Seattle’s economy. It’s a business sector that employs approximately 20,000 people,” said Councilmember Tim Burgess. “This initiative will draw more visitors to our city. It will preserve jobs and create new ones for a wide variety of businesses, from hotels and restaurants to retail shops and arts, culture and entertainment. This is a great example of government, business and labor coming together to address a specific need.”

The proposal creates the Seattle Tourism Improvement Area encompassing the greater downtown area, including Lower Queen Anne, South Lake Union, Belltown, Pioneer Square, the Chinatown International District, and portions of Capitol Hill. Hotels with 60 rooms or more in this area will levy the $2 surcharge per occupied room per night. The money will be pooled and used for marketing and promotional activities designed to draw individuals and families to Seattle for vacation.

“I’m so very pleased with the plan to expand tourism. We’re very fortunate to have leaders in the tourism industry who have worked hard to bring business, labor and city leaders together to create a dedicated source of tourism marketing and promotion money,” said Councilmember Jean Godden. “While we do very well attracting conventions it’s fitting that we build on that success using this new revenue to invite new visitors to our city.”

Forty-one of the fifty-three qualifying hotels in the proposed Tourism Improvement Area have submitted petitions to the City Council asking that they be authorized to charge the special per room surcharge. The City will collect the assessments—estimated between $5-6 million in 2012—from the hotels and contract with a program manager to administer the funds.

“Tourism is a very competitive industry and many of our peer west coast cities have already inaugurated tourism improvement districts to supplement their existing marketing budgets and compete more readily in the tourism marketplace,” said Tom Norwalk, President & CEO of Seattle’s Convention and Visitors Bureau. “With what Seattle has to offer, we believe we can draw many more leisure travelers to the region, focusing our marketing efforts on Seattle’s shoulder- and off-seasons. Our convention business is strong and these new funds will allow us to promote leisure travel to the City.”

The effort to create the Tourism Promotion Area began in 2010 and has been a collaborative effort between the City Council, the Mayor’s office, Seattle’s Convention and Visitors Bureau and the King County Executive.

“With state cuts to tourism funding, this is an important proposal to promote our city, and promote local jobs,” said Mayor Mike McGinn. “This is a good example of how the private sector and government can partner on economic development.”

“Our job must be to build prosperity for the region and get people back to work,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “I’m a strong advocate for projects that will attract new visitors, and the benefits from this measure will extend beyond Seattle to restaurants, shops, and other attractions across King County.”

State law requires a detailed process for establishing such a business improvement area, including a public hearing to be held on August 8 at 5:30 p.m. before the City Council ( 600 Fourth Avenue, 2nd Floor ). The target start date for collecting assessments is November 1, 2011.

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