City mulls tourism district
Whether or not Sonoma needs to establish a Tourism Improvement District, which would levy a 2 percent assessment on all overnight room stays in the city, remains an unanswered question. But on May 16, the City Council agreed to proceed with a staff evaluation of a proposal brought forward by representatives from the "big four" hotels (The Lodge, MacArthur Place, Best Western Sonoma Valley Inn and Inn at Sonoma).
That proposal suggests creation of an assessment district that could pump up to $440,000 a year into promoting tourism in Sonoma Valley.
Hotel owners are concerned that uncertainty over the future of redevelopment revenue puts the future of the Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau - now partially funded with CDA money - in doubt.
According to the staff report, the Tourism Improvement District, or TID, would be a "different, locally-controlled financing source for tourism marketing and sales promotion," with the explicit purpose of "generating room nights" for those members paying into and benefiting from the assessment."
Discussion of the proposal among representatives of the larger, "Big 7" hotel group resulted in unanimous consensus that all concerned had no interest in joining the Sonoma County Tourism Bureau's Business Improvement Area; that they wanted to work with the city and the Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau to increase local revenues; that they don't want to see the Sonoma TOT (room tax) raised to 14 percent (it is currently 10 percent); and that they want to continue to work with county partners to build revenues and provide visitor services in the unincorporated areas of Sonoma Valley.
City staff were instructed to present pros and cons for the TID proposal in preparation for further discussion during the June 2 council meeting.