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Healdsburg council backs new tax on hotel visitors

Plans to impose a new fee on hotel visitors in Healdsburg to pay for a promotional campaign designed to draw tourists advanced this week with the help of the City Council.

The City Council on Monday unanimously adopted a resolution of intent to create the tourism improvement district, which would add a 2 percent assessment to pay for promotion of hotel lodging in Healdsburg.

Hotel and inn operators, who overwhelmingly support the new district in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce, said it is a response to dwindling city support for marketing efforts with the loss of redevelopment programs.

It's needed to "remain competitive as a Wine Country destination," stated Circe Sher, marketing director for Hotel Healdsburg and H2 Hotel.

"Healdsburg is a fantastic destination. We just need to get the word out," said Ramon Serrano, general manager of the Hotel Les Mars.

Sixteen hoteliers and innkeepers signed a petition in favor of the district, which would raise an estimated $320,000 a year to increase and extend hotel occupancy. Two innkeepers were opposed.

"This is exciting," said Mayor Gary Plass, who said it involves "a group of individuals willing to tax themselves, which is refreshing."

"It's great to see a creative way to solve the problem," said Councilman Jim Wood.

The 2 percent fee would be levied on top of a separate 12 percent bed tax the city already collects. Most of that revenue goes to pay for park and recreation programs, in accordance with a 2004 voter-approved measure.

Hotel and tourism improvement districts have been adopted in more than 50 California cities. The County of Sonoma and seven of its cities, excluding Healdsburg and Sonoma, also assess a 2 percent fee for tourism promotion in a program overseen by the Sonoma County Tourism Bureau.


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