New tourism improvement fund backed by Welcome Center, hotels

Welcome center

The Gilroy Welcome Center and several Gilroy hotels have teamed up to present a tourism improvement district that would heavily market overnight stays in Gilroy. The Center plans to present the proposal to City Council during their regular Monday, July 16 meeting.

The proposal, known as the Gilroy Tourism Business Improvement District, would yield about $190,000 annually by taxing each Gilroy hotel 2 percent of their room rates, according to Jane Howard, Welcome Center director.

“To really be considered a destination, you have to go to the next level in marketing,” Howard said.

And according to Howard, the “next level” can’t be achieved without a little bit of money in the budget – which is where the hotel tax would come in. The money garnered from the tax would go directly to the tourism improvement district for strategic marketing of Gilroy as a weekend destination.

So far, five hotels, including the Hilton Garden Inn on Monterey Road, the Best Western Inn on Leavesley Road, Super 8 on San Ysidro Avenue, Quality Inn on Murray Avenue and Fitzgerald Inn on Rosanna Street have signed a petition in favor of the proposal.

The petition needs 50 percent to pass, though because of the size of the five hotels that have already signed – their leverage is based on how much Transient Occupancy Tax they bring in – the petition has 69 percent backing. 

Even if the 10 other hotels that Howard hasn’t heard from choose not to support it, the initiative still has enough backing to move forward. 

A few ideas that Howard said hotel managers had suggested – although nothing at this point is set in stone – is a kiosk at the Welcome Center where visitors can easily book any Gilroy hotel, along with a flat-screen TV mounted in the Welcome Center, boasting a slideshow of local hotel advertisements and specials. 

But these ideas are just a sliver of the plans that the tourism district hopes to implement with the help of a professional marketing group that will focus on measurable return on investments. 

Now, a “yes” from Council is the next step. Council’s initial vote on the proposal is slated for July 16, although the public hearing and final vote won’t be until August.

If it were to pass, the tax would take effect Jan. 1, 2013.

Howard feels confident that Council will approve the initiative, based on the positive interest she has seen from city staff. She’s also confident that the tax would benefit not only area hotels, but the whole community.

“Last Sunday, I had a family with three little ones from Sacramento drop by the Welcome Center,” Howard said. 

She said the family had spent Saturday at Gilroy Gardens, went to dinner in town, stayed overnight, and then spent Sunday shopping at the Gilroy Premium Outlets. 

“Those are exactly the kinds of itineraries we’re talking about,” Howard said. “We’re trying to spread the message that there is so much to do in Gilroy, you can’t do it in just one day.”

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