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Thursday, Aug 11, 2022
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Tourism

A push to get the city of Los Angeles to hand over $500,000 in hotel taxes so the San Fernando Valley can promote local tourism appears to be dying a quiet death. Supporters of separate tourism promotion aren’t ready to throw in the towel, but they concede the chances are slim that the city will come through at this point, in large part because the City Council appears to have lost interest. “I don’t know if the battle’s over, but it’s at least on hold,” said Bob Scott, a city planning commissioner and vice chairman of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, which supports separate Valley tourism promotion. Scott blames the city bureaucracy for the downfall of the proposal. “Nothing significant occurred from the folks downtown. They ran the volunteers up a blind alley on this,” he said. Valley tourism boosters argue that the Los Angeles Visitors and Convention Bureau has done a poor job promoting the San Fernando Valley to tourists. L.A. tourism officials slighted Valley hotels and tourist spots in past years by leaving them off the tourist map. In response, Valley business leaders formed the San Fernando Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau in 1998. But the organization is run mostly by volunteers and operates on a shoestring budget of $30,000. The Valley bureau, which represents the Valley portions of Los Angeles as well as Burbank, Glendale, San Fernando and Calabasas, wants the city to hand over $500,000 in bed taxes that the city collects from Valley hotels to fund a separate tourism effort. Valley hotels account for roughly $14 million of the $90 million the city collects in bed taxes. Valley officials had hoped to meet with city officials in April to work out a compromise with the Los Angeles bureau for some of the tourism money, but the meeting never came off. Staff for the City Administrator’s Office said they are waiting for members of the City Council to express interest in divvying up the hotel tax money, but none of the members appear to be ready to do so. Councilman Joel Wachs, a Valley representative, initially stepped forward to push for a separate Valley tourism effort, but he appears to have lost interest. Wachs was unavailable for comment, but staff members say it is unclear whether the councilman will attempt to resurrect the proposal. In fact, the staffer who was handling the issue left, and no one has been appointed to take over a sign the matter isn’t a top priority, staff members conceded. David Iwata, president of the San Fernando Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau, could not be reached for comment, but in a voicemail message said he hopes to continue working with the city to secure the funding. L.A. bureau officials, who a month ago said they were interested in talks with the Valley bureau officials, wouldn’t comment on the status of the proposal. However, in the past, L.A. bureau officials complained that separate Valley tourism promotion would duplicate what they’re already doing. Indeed, Valley officials said they would use the $500,000 to promote such tourist spots as the J. Paul Getty Center, the Rose Bowl, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Magic Mountain, none of which are actually in the San Fernando Valley. The guide would have also included the San Fernando Mission, NBC Studios and Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, all of which are already on the Los Angeles bureau’s brochure. Since its inception in 1998, the Valley bureau has been run with the help of volunteers and Iwata, who receives a paid salary as the bureau president. The bureau now operates on a $30,000 budget collected from membership fees from its 10 member hotels, eight of which are within Los Angeles city limits. The bureau had planned to use city funding to hire a full-time employee and market area hotels to tourists from areas such as Northern California and Arizona. The goal of a separate Valley bureau is to promote Valley hotels and restaurants, while creating an identity for the Valley separate from that of Los Angeles, the way that Santa Clara County changed its identity to Silicon Valley, Iwata has said. A regional market would boost Valley hotels that are farther from L.A. and increase business guests in the area, the bread and butter of the hotel industry, valley officials argued.

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