Clovis News

Local hotels back fee to fund marketing

A plan for hotels to pick up the tab for marketing the Fresno area to visitors is getting closer to approval.

A proposed tourism business improvement district would require hotels, motels and inns in Fresno and Clovis to pay an assessment equal to 1% of total room charges.

The plan has approval from enough hotels to pass, but still needs to undergo two public hearings and a vote by the Fresno City Council.

If it passes, the Fresno City and County Convention and Visitors Bureau would use the money -- an estimated $800,000 a year -- to market the region. The bureau would woo conferences, sports tournaments and anything that would bring hotel guests to the area.

Without the tourism district, the bureau will close. The bureau lost its main source of funding, the city of Fresno's $1.2 million contribution, as the city struggled to balance its budget.

At least 51% of hotels need to sign petitions saying they agree to the arrangement for it to pass. So far, 82% of hotels have agreed to it, said Layla Forstedt, the bureau's acting chief executive.

Hotels are relying on the visitors bureau to market the region and bring more visitors, said Amy Overton, general manager at Piccadilly Inn Airport and president of the Fresno Hotel/Motel Association. "We need heads in beds, and that's what the CVB does," she said.

Without it, she said, "the economic impact would be a disaster to the city. There would be no entity marketing the city of Fresno."

It's not cost effective for hotels to take over the role of the visitors bureau, said Jay Virk, spokesman for La Quinta Inn and Suites near Shaw Avenue and Highway 99 in Fresno, and the Fairfield Inn & Suites Marriott and Comfort Inn in Clovis. Instead, they rely on the bureau to bid and fill out applications to bring large-scale events to town, he said.

Most hotels will probably add 1% to the cost of their room to pay for the tourism district, he said.

Guests must be informed of the charge at booking and on their final bill, said Nicole Zieba, Fresno's deputy city manager and a member of the bureau's board of directors. She said she has not heard any opposition to the tourism district yet.

State law requires such districts to be formed through a municipality. The city councils of Fresno and Clovis have given their initial approval for the bureau to start the process.

The first public hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday in the Fresno City Council chambers. Another hearing and a final vote on the plan by the council is scheduled for Dec. 16.