Tourism fee nears final hurdle

Legislation is nearing final legislative passage that would allow Orleans Parish hotels to levy an extra surcharge on hotel rooms to use in tourism promotion.

The Louisiana House approved the measure on a 79-18 vote and returned it to the state Senate for concurrence in a minor House change.

Senate Bill 242, sponsored by state Sen. Ed Murray, D-New Orleans, authorizes the levy of a special assessment by a tourism organization on its hotel members. Two-thirds of the hotels would have to support the levy before it could be implemented. Those who object don’t have to participate but they will not share in promotion efforts.

The New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau hailed the bill’s passage and said it could lead to $12 million in new sales and marketing funds to promote New Orleans as a top tier destination for leisure visitors, conventions, meetings, business travel and special events.

Some of the dollars generated would be dedicated to French Quarter improvements.

The bureau estimated that the new infusion of cash would create 5,000 new jobs and $500 million in economic impact over the next 18 months.

State Rep. Greg Miller, R-Norco, said the higher hotel bills could dissuade guests from staying at some places.

“They are not going to charge more than the market can bear,” said state Rep. Kirk Talbot, R-River Ridge.