BY SARA TABIN
Daily Post Staff Writer
Palo Alto City Council is holding off on a request from local hotels to withdraw from the San Mateo County/Silicon Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau until the city collects more information.
Under an arrangement that began in 2010, hotels pay 15 cents to $1 per room night to the visitors bureau, depending on their size and occupancy. The fees may be added to guests’ hotel bills. The visitors bureau collects about $309,000 a year from Palo Alto hotels and motels.
In exchange, the visitors bureau tries to attract conventions to the area and promotes the region to tourists, including international travelers.
Hotels have given over $2.7 million to the bureau over the past decade, and many say their money is vanishing without returns to their businesses.
“I don’t want to pay for a service that I’m not getting,” Cowper Inn owner Hugo Santos said to council on Monday. He said the inn at 705 Cowper St. has been paying the bureau for years without seeing any results.
19 of 27 want to withdraw
According to the Palo Alto Hotel Council, a group that formed last year to fight a hotel tax increase in the city, 19 out of 27 hotels in the city want out of the agreement.
Council members decided 5-2 Monday that they want the city to conduct its own poll before they decide whether to withdraw. Once the poll is finished, the issue will come back to council. Mayor Eric Filseth and Councilman Greg Tanaka voted against the resolution.
Deputy City Manager Michelle Poche Flaherty said her office hadn’t done an independent poll because they were trying to get the issue before council quickly. Flaherty also did not have an answer for how long it will take Palo Alto to officially leave the bureau if council votes to get out.
Hotel Parmani owner Yatin Patel told council that none of the clients the bureau has sent his way panned out. Many of the potential clients wanted discounted rooms that were not feasible for a small motel like Parmani, said Patel.
Joji Arellano, CEO of Cowper Inn, said she wants to see marketing that is better targeted toward the Palo Alto market. Like Parmani, she said the bureau has not connected her to the right clients for a small hotel.
Bureau changes website
John Hutar, president and CEO of the bureau, said he wants more time to prove that the bureau can help hotels. Hutar said they have been amping up their use of technology to help hotels.
Hutar said in a letter to council last month that the visitors bureau domain name, previously www.visitsanmateocounty.com, was changed to www.visitsmcsv.com in November.
The previous name “excludes Palo Alto and is not representative of the area we serve,” Hutar acknowledged.