Tuesday, May 1, 2012

My Thoughts on the New Orleans Hospitality Zone

The city of New Orleans is preparing to have a hospitality zone to generate money for the tourist industry. The particulars are already broken down by LunaNola on the NOLAFemmes blog so I don’t have to do it. I am not anti tourism. I realize that a lot of people in this city including my closest friend depend on visitors to fuel their livelihood and I respect that. I don’t want people to stop visiting the city. I just don’t know why we have to create all the extra layers of government and taxes to feed the tourism industry. It seems to me the industry has been doing okay without a special tax zone.

Do we need the extra money for the Superbowl? New Orleans was hosting Superbowls before they had a Superdome. I think people know what they are going to see when they visit here. A lot of the money is set aside for advertising. Maybe advertising does make a difference in the number of visitors to the city and if it does there should be a hospitality zone in Baton Rouge and other areas around the state because New Orleans is barely seeing any of the money from tourism anyway.

I read this article in the Times Picayune last week about the amount of money the city gains from all the big tourism events. It included how much the city actually received from being the host.

“For the first three months of 2012, when the city played host to numerous headline-making events, Chief Financial Officer Norman Foster said, the city's revenue from hotel-motel taxes was up more than 30 percent from the same period in 2011. But that increase amounted to only $800,000, barely a drop in the bucket of the city's almost $500 million operating budget.”

“In fact, visitors paid far more than that in hotel taxes, a hefty 13 percent of their bills. But the city's share of that is only 1 percent. The other 12 percent goes to the state, the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, the Superdome Commission, the Orleans Parish School Board, the New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau and others.”

The state and the tourism industry are already getting most of the money from the visitors we have now. Why do we need to section off entire portions of the city if the city itself won’t be seeing any increase in revenue? We are losing out on the current money and the potential extra money.

The other thing about this idea is that it creates yet another appointed board with control over public money. We have so many boards now that I have lost track. I don’t know who has control over which decisions anymore. Its bad enough we got about a dozen deputy mayors. You have to go through two consultants, three boards, and four deputy mayors before you can determine if the person you actually voted for is doing their job.  Now we are about to add the Hospitality Zone Board to the mix. That means when citizens want to write and complain about the extra ten dollars they spent in taxes on a steak at Ruth’s Chris downtown they’ll have to email twenty different people. In my opinion this is too much for the average person to keep up with and maybe that’s part of the plan.

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