Local hotel owners are moving closer to approving an initiative that would provide millions more in funding to Visit Mobile.
The Mobile Area Lodging Association has already voted to approve a tourism incentive district, or TID, which would add more than $1 million to tourism marketing coffers by adding a $1 charge to area hotel rooms, Visit Mobile President and CEO David Clark said at the organization’s annual meeting last week.
“It could mean $1.4 million more in marketing reach if it comes to fruition,” he said. “There are 165 [TIDs] in North America and they change the landscape of communities.”
The Mobile Area Lodging Association has voted to allow for the creation of the TID, but now must go before the Mobile City Council with legal petitions of establishment, said association President Kent Blackinton.
Before the council can vote on the measure, the lodging association must turn in a series of petitions showing support from a majority of hotel owners.
“It’s not an easy process,” Blackinton said. “We have to get a certain number of signatures to put it in front of the City Council.”
The signatures on the petitions must meet two different thresholds before the council can act, Blackinton said. First, the association must receive consent from hotel owners representing 60 percent of the parcel value of area hotels. The group must also receive 50 percent approval from lodging association members via the petitions, Blackinton said.
Blackinton said he was confident the association had the signatures to support the move because members approved the creation of the TID through a vote, but he added it’s difficult to be 100 percent sure.
For hotel owners, the upside of a TID is that it increases the city’s tourism budget without costing taxpayers; the downside is it adds another $1 fee to itemized bills. Blackinton said he doesn’t believe the council will have an issue with the TID’s creation.
In the 2018 budget passed last week, the city gave Visit Mobile level funding compared to 2017, a total of $2,650,000. There was discussion before the 2017 fiscal year budget was finalized that TID funds could supplement Visit Mobile, as Mayor Sandy Stimpson slashed its budget by $650,000 during his first term. That thinking has apparently changed.
Stimpson has charged Visit Mobile with attracting 6 million visitors to Mobile. The group has reached an all-time high in tourism with 3.2 million visitors this year, Clark said at the meeting.
Visit Mobile, which has previously focused on convention business, will look toward leisure travel as well to hit that mark, he said. The group will be 100 percent focused on both.