By ABBEY KUNKLE
Special to the PRESS
February 19, 2015
Scott Joslove, president and CEO of the Texas Hotel & Lodging Association (THLA), visited South Padre Island this week to lead the Convention and Visitors Advisory Board (CVA) in a workshop discussing the board’s Event Funding Application and Guidelines. The CVA funds events with the City’s Hotel/Motel Occupancy Tax which is currently at 14.5 percent and falls close to state average of 13 – 17 percent.
Joslove has been with the THLA since 2000 and has been an integral part in making the group the largest hotel association in the nation. Based on previous feedback, Joslove made some changes and adjustments to the CVA’s Event Funding Application and Guidelines to ensure good practices for funding approval of events that will promote tourism on the Island.
One of those changes will require funding requests be considered biannually and possibly annually in the future, rather than monthly as the board has done in the past. This fiscal year, many event funding requests were made at once and exceeded the allocated amount for available funding. The biannual selection process will ensure that the CVA is presented with all the events that are requesting funding to assist the board in making informed decisions and better plan for the annual budget. Ultimately, the board may move to awarding funding just once a year, but can request a variance if an event meets determined criteria.
The board also discussed issues with some event coordinators not fulfilling contracts, while still others were ill-prepared for proving their impact on hotel activity. Joslove noted that some events may be great events but do not necessarily qualify to be funded by the CVA. He clarified some of the requirements for event funding with the Hotel/Motel Occupancy Tax, pointing out that the requests must meet two requirements. The first requirement is for fund requests that fall into one of the statutory categories, which include: convention or visitors centers, advertising and promotion, promotion of the arts not to exceed 15 percent of the funds, historical restoration and preservation also not to exceed 15 percent, sporting related events, sporting related facilities, coastal erosion projects at 0.5 percent and others. The City Council is currently in the process of writing a provision that will allow for a portion of the tax funds to be spent on facilities to be used in relation to SpaceX and ecotourism in the area. Each category has subsequent rules to define what is and what is not acceptable within those categories, but more importantly, the second and most pertinent requirement that must be met is that every expenditure must directly impact tourism and specifically hotel activity.
According to their new guidelines, the CVA will be accepting applications throughout the year for event funding requests that will be prequalified by staff based on technical criteria before being presented to the CVA for approval at the requested amount, a partial amount, or possible rejection. The board will review the written requests and may call for presentations for clarification. Events will be selected for funding based on the discretion of the board and the projected impact to hotel activity.
In an effort to encourage events to become self-supporting, the board along with Joslove, came to the consensus that there would be a four year cap on funding organizational costs for non-anchor events, which are determined as those that produce less than 500 room nights. Marketing costs may be considered for continued funding after the fourth year. After the first year of funding, events will be funded on a reimbursement basis, and promoters are encouraged to gain sponsorship as well as save seed money for operational costs in the following year. Post event forms showing actual impact versus projected impact will continue to be required for reimbursement and consideration of funding in the future.
Joslove said, “One of my most precious relationships in the 1,100 cities I work with is right here in South Padre,” adding, “I think this is going to be one of the best applications for hotel tax funding for events in the state. You guys have looked at all the key issues that so often aren’t asked.” The CVA plans to hold trainings to assist staff and applicants in meeting the determined criteria. Based on these discussions, Joslove prepare a document to be presented to City Council for approval.
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