Letter: Bill would aid tourism, Quarter

This week, the Louisiana House will vote on Senate Bill 242, an innovative plan put forth by New Orleans tourism leadership that ensures the continued vitality of the state’s valuable tourism industry.

Like other statewide initiatives that receive some public dollars, tourism marketing efforts are potential victims of on-going financial stress and significant governmental cutbacks. SB242, if approved and implemented, provides a funding solution that will grow both the local and state economy, create jobs and protect one of Louisiana’s most beloved and visited national treasures: the New Orleans French Quarter.

SB 242, passed by the Senate and now in the House of Representatives, is the result of two years of research, extensive diligence and economic analysis.

SB242 will create sales and marketing funds to promote New Orleans as a premier destination. SB242 will also set into motion the plan to provide monies for French Quarter infrastructure, public safety and quality of life improvements. In just 18 months, SB242 has the potential to create a $500 million economic impact and 5,000 new jobs.

Let us be very clear: SB242 is not a tax; it is a voluntary, optional hotel assessment. Proceeds from 1.5 percentage points of the assessment will aid marketing and sales efforts for the city. Tourism and city leaders are in agreement that funds from the remaining .25 percentage point should be committed to public safety, sanitation and other services in the French Quarter. The exact usage of the .25 will be determined as part of the normal annual budgeting process carried out with full transparency by the New Orleans mayor and City Council with input from concerned citizenry; we are confident all parties will embrace our strategic plan to protect and preserve the French Quarter.

If New Orleans is to compete with destinations such as Orlando, Las Vegas and Chicago, we must have access to the type of funding that SB242 allows. These cities are operating with a marketing budget two and three times that of New Orleans; the voluntary assessment can eliminate this limitation and ensure the New Orleans economy continues to thrive.

Our hope, belief and expectation are that this proposed legislation will set a platform for continued enhancement of our hospitality economy throughout Louisiana.

Let’s grow jobs. Let’s supercharge our economy. Let’s put New Orleans on a level playing field with other great, American cities. Let’s establish — for the first time — a much needed and long overdue source of funding to protect and maintain the Vieux Carre, the fragile heart of New Orleans and a beloved symbol of Louisiana tourism.

Let’s support Senate Bill 242.

Gregory Rusovich
chairman of the board
New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau