Tuesday, May 22, 2012

NOLA tourism leaders call for Hospitality Zone legislation to be pulled

Posted By on Tue, May 22, 2012 at 7:55 PM

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The New Orleans Hospitality Coalition PAC, the group of hospitality, hotel and tourism groups backing and lobbying for the controversial Hospitality Zone taxing plan, have announced they are pulling their support from the bill after amendments were added last week by State Sen. Karen Carter Peterson.

As amended by Peterson, Senate Bill 767 (the former SB 573) would have made the hospitality zone board subject to the same laws that govern public meetings and would have reduced the percentage of funds allotted to some of the major backers. Under Peterson's plan, 40 percent of monies raised would have gone to the city for infrastructure improvements, while the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Board and the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Board would have each received 20 percent. The remaining 20 percent would have been split between the French Quarter Management District and the New Orleans Multicultural Tourism Network.

Abandonment of the plan, which had been criticized fiercely by neighborhood associations that tagged it "The Ho Zone," was expected after the changes were made. Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who had been a fervent supporter of the original bill, made no mention of it in his annual State of the City address this afternoon.

In its statement, the Hospitality Coalition PAC referred to "unpalatable amendments" placed on the bill and called the original version a "very unselfish effort to tax ourselves and generate significant dollars." The statement also said the funds would have been paired with "a $30 million dollar allocation from the [Ernest N. Morial] Convention Center. Those components are suspended as well."

Dear Friends of Tourism,

On behalf of the Chairs and Executive Committee members of the major tourism organizations, we wish to inform you that the industry leadership has asked that the hospitality zone legislation proposed in this legislative session be pulled down for this year.

This decision came after serious consideration and much discussion among a broad-based coalition of New Orleans legislators, business leaders, tourism workers, neighborhood partners and leadership of the hospitality industry.

We are extremely sad that this very unselfish effort to tax ourselves and generate significant dollars for marketing, job creation and revenue growth for our businesses and the city, has come to an end because of unpalatable amendments placed on the bill. Though the bill could likely have been passed in its new form, the amendments made it off target to the private sector coalition which originated the bill in partnership with the Mayor.


The Hospitality Zone legislation was a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to improve downtown and French Quarter infrastructure, gain $11 million in additional marketing funds, create thousands of new jobs and elevate our national reputation before we host the Super Bowl. The plan would have improved the quality of life for residents and workers living in the Hospitality Zone, and would have attracted more visitors, conventions, sports events, and major retailers to boost our economy and bring New Orleans to the forefront of the United States.

In addition, the bill would have provided for sustainable public safety, sanitation and infrastructure enhancements for the French Quarter and would have been partnered with a $30 million dollar allocation from the Convention Center. Those components are suspended as well.

When more visitors come to New Orleans, we have more city revenues to hire additional police officers, fix our streets, and improve the living conditions of New Orleans citizens in every neighborhood. We look forward to continuing to work with the industry, all of our elected officials and Mayor Landrieu's Administration to achieve these aspirations.

Following is a link to the press release issued by the hospitality industry today:

Sincerely,
Tourism Industry Board Leadership

NEW ORLEANS – May 22, 2012 - After consultation among a broad-based coalition of New Orleans legislators, business leaders, tourism workers, neighborhood partners, along with the leadership of the city’s large hospitality industry, all have agreed to withdraw the current proposal for the Hospitality Zone from legislative consideration at this session. Though the bill could likely have been passed in its new form, the amendments have made it unpalatable and off target to the private sector coalition which originated the bill in partnership with the Mayor.

Melvin Rodrigue, Chairman of the Ernest N. Morial New Orleans Convention Center stated, “While we are disappointed in the new amendments to our bill, and it is true that they have effectively killed this very important marketing and infrastructure initiative for the time-being, and have undermined the rationale for our Convention Center’s plans for an immediate $30 million injection into French Quarter infrastructure, our board will remain open to finding other ways it can partner with the Mayor and political leaders to improve our city and its role in the very competitive travel industry. Our board is committed to that future partnership.”

Fred Sawyers, Chairman of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau stated, “On behalf of our 1,100 companies, representing tens of thousands of citizens, we cannot support the amendments and the drastically reduced marketing in the new version of the bill, but we remain committed to the goals of this proposal which seek to improve the infrastructure of areas of the downtown and French Quarter as well as drive additional marketing support to build more jobs, reposition New Orleans in the national marketplace and build a healthier economy. The ROI that would have flowed from the initial marketing allocation was one of the prime reasons for our original support of the legislation.”

According to Tod Chambers, President of the Greater New Orleans Hotel and Lodging Association, “The current version of the bill does not have the critically necessary support from our hotel members, the source of the vast majority of the new taxes. We were willing to shoulder a disproportionate share of the new taxes in order to provide much needed marketing support to the city’s tourism industry, assist in the repair of infrastructure and grow our businesses. We will, however, continue to work with the administration and like-minded community leaders and neighborhood partners to search for ways to achieve what we all know our city deserves – more jobs, a growing economy and a city that works for not only our citizens but visitors as well.”

“In order for us to achieve our aspirations as a world class destination, we must fix and maintain our treasured French Quarter and downtown, and market our city year round to bring our great story to the nation,” commented Darryl Berger, Chairman of the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation. “We look forward to continuing to work with the industry and Mayor Landrieu’s Administration to achieve these aspirations.”

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