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Monday, Apr 22, 2024

Tourism

JENNIFER NETHERBY Staff Reporter The San Fernando Valley Conference and Visitors Bureau wants the city to hand over $500,000 in hotel taxes generated in the Valley so it can promote local tourism. But plans by the bureau to market the same attractions that L.A. already promotes, including tourist spots outside the Valley, has tourism officials over the hill complaining that a dual approach will be redundant and ineffective. “From a marketing standpoint, it doesn’t make sense to describe (the Valley) as separate from L.A.,” said Michael Collins, executive director of the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Hotels want to be in L.A., not the San Fernando Valley. Universal Studios makes a point of saying it’s in Hollywood, though it’s in the Valley.” The push for separate tourism budgets is simply a byproduct of secessionist sentiment that has the Valley complaining it’s not getting its fair share, said Collins. “This is political, it’s not people talking intelligently,” he said. Not so, said David Iwata, president of the Valley tourism bureau. The goal is to promote Valley hotels and restaurants, while creating an identity for the Valley separate from that of Los Angeles. “It might take 20 years. But that’s what we’re doing right now in calling the San Fernando Valley ‘The Valley of the Stars,’ ” he said. “We want to create a brand identity.” Valley business leaders have been fighting for a separate tourism budget for the past two years, saying the city bureau has slighted the Valley in the past by leaving its hotels and tourist hotspots off city promotional maps. The Valley bureau, which represents the San Fernando Valley and the cities of Glendale, Burbank, Calabasas and San Fernando, is requesting $500,000 of the roughly $14 million in hotel occupancy taxes the area pumps into the city of L.A. coffers. In all, the city collects $90 million in hotel taxes. Iwata said the Valley bureau would use the money to hire a full-time employee and market area hotels to tourists from areas such as Northern California and Arizona. It also wants to publish a Valley brochure that includes the Getty Center, Rose Bowl, Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Magic Mountain, none of which are actually in the Valley. “What we want is visitors to stay in the San Fernando Valley and take daily excursion trips,” Iwata said. The Valley’s tourism guide would be similar to that of Los Angeles. The San Fernando Mission would be there, as well as NBC and Warner Bros. studios in Burbank. The same attractions are already in the Los Angeles bureau’s brochure. Tourism bureaus in Southern California cross city lines all the time to market their hotels. Even the L.A. bureau does it, marketing Burbank and Disneyland as part of L.A. Collins said most people outside of Los Angeles don’t recognize much of a difference between North Hollywood and an area like downtown. It’s all L.A. “If in London, you ask someone what L.A. is, you’ll end up with everything from Santa Barbara down to San Diego,” he said. “The consumer doesn’t buy in chunks, even though the local markets differ.” That is why, he said, the Valley shouldn’t separate from Los Angeles, in terms of tourism. “Hotels want to be represented by L.A.,” Collins said. “If anything, they want to be better connected and more connected to L.A.” Collins argues that Valley hotel occupancy and room rates are doing well, which indicates the region is enjoying a boost from L.A.’s marketing approach. In January, rates were up 1.9 percent over the like period a year ago to a high of $110.04 a night, according to PKF Consulting. “Across the board, the Valley continues to do quite well,” Collins said. “Within the city, it’s doing damn well.” But Iwata says that isn’t so. While Valley hotel rates are rising, occupancy rates have gone down, as have hotel revenues, he says. Members of the Valley bureau, which operates on a membership-driven $30,000 annual budget, believe a regional marketing approach will boost Valley hotels that are farther from L.A. and increase the number of business guests coming to the Valley. Iwata said he would like the Valley bureau to be a buffer to the Los Angeles bureau. He said in the end, the Valley will do better with its own identity. Iwata and other Valley tourism officials expect the Los Angeles City Administrators Office to hear out both sides and then make a recommendation on how much, if any, tax money the Valley should get to promote tourism. The recommendation could come as early as this month. Then it would be up to the L.A. City Council to make a final decision.

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