Council This Week to Consider Additional Hotel Motel Tax

City Council will vote this week on a tax increase, but don't worry, you won't have to pay it, unless you stay in San Antonio hotels, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

Council will be asked to give final approval for what is called a TPID, or a Tourism Public Improvement District.

Casandra Matej, CEO of Visit San Antonio, says the 1.25% tax on hotel and motel bookings, which has been approved by the required number of hotel owners, would raise roughly $10 million.

"90% of it is earmarked for marketing efforts and sales efforts," she said.

Matej says travel and tourism is one of the areas where marketing and promotion makes the greatest impact on revenues, with every dollar spent on marketing paying $7 in benefit to the community.  She points out that travel and tourism not only is one of the region's largest employers, but visitors who come here pay the Hotel Occupancy Tax, which was used, for example, to pay for the upgrades to the Alamodome that made this year's Men's NCAA Final Four possible, but they also pay sales taxes, which fund the City's general fund operations.

Matej says the city's vital tourism sector is losing ground to Dallas, and Houston, which have TPIDs, after the state slashed funding for the state's tourism marketing effort by some 50%.  There are currently 167 TPIDs nationwide, each of them encouraging people to do their leisure traveling and hold conventions in cities other than San Antonio.

"We're going to have to make up for what they used to spend, to make sure that people are coming to Texas, and coming to San Antonio."

She pointed out that now that San Antonio is a destination for global travelers, largely due to the World Heritage Site designation for the San Antonio Missions, travel promotion is even more vital.

But even though Council gave preliminary approval of the TPID earlier this year, there is a challenge at City Hall, as some members of City Council are pushing for a portion of the TPID money to be used for programs to alleviate the city's growing problem of homelessness.

The argument made is that having homeless people and beggars hanging around hotels, the Riverwalk, and other attractions is no good for tourism, so fighting the problem would also help the local hospitality industry.

But supporters of the TPID as it is now written, including Mayor Nirenberg, point out that the state statute required the hotel and motel owners to agree to be taxed, and they agreed to the TPID to raise money for sales and marketing, not for programs to fight homelessness, so changing the goal would invalidate the hotel owners' agreement, and would kill the TPID proposal.

The issue will be taken up by a City Council work session on Wednesday, and by the full Council on Thursday.

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