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Friday, May 20, 2022

Push for Regional Travel Bureaus Getting Mixed Reaction

Push for Regional Travel Bureaus Getting Mixed Reaction

By ANDY FIXMER

Staff Reporter

A group of Westside businesses and hotel operators trying to establish an alternative structure to the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau has gained support in the San Fernando Valley and is stepping up its lobbying efforts at City Hall.

Representatives of the coalition have been meeting with City Council members and members of the Hahn administration, and plan a formal presentation to the council in a few weeks.

Late last year, the group proposed earmarking a portion of the city’s hotel taxes, which in part fund the bureau’s $22 million annual contract, to support regional bureaus in the Westside, San Fernando Valley, Bay Cities, Hollywood and downtown.

Under the proposal, each bureau would send representatives to a citywide commission responsible for coordinating promotions and handling international marketing of Los Angeles.

The group, led by Jay Handal, president of the West Los Angles Chamber of Commerce, has received a mixed response from council members.

Jan Perry, the 9th District councilwoman in whose district the Convention Center sits, said splitting the bureau would be counterproductive.

“There is no equitable way to carve up the LACVB so that is can effectively serve the region, and doing so would ultimately do a disservice to the people of Los Angeles,” Perry said. “Instead, we need to expand the marketing techniques of the organization, working to broaden the scope and type of conventions and groups that we seek to attract to our city.”

But Handal said that the coalition, which recently added to its ranks the Valley Economic Alliance, operator of the San Fernando Valley Conference and Visitors Bureau, had enough support from at least two councilmembers to make the proposal a discussion item.

Council President Alex Padilla, whose 7th District is in the Valley, is one of those open to discussing a restructuring of the LACVB, according to his press deputy, David Gershwin. He said Padilla has met with the Valley Economic Alliance to discuss the issue.

“The overall restructuring of the LACVB would be a good topic here at City Hall,” Gershwin said, “It’s something (Padilla) would be open to discussing.”

The push to make a presentation to the council comes as the visitors bureau is in the early stages of negotiating a new three-year contract with the city. The present contract expires June 30.

A motion enacted in February by the council to begin the negotiation process called on city and bureau representatives to hammer out the contract and then have it reviewed by a panel of “stakeholders” consisting of local travel and tourism industry leaders.

But Handal and his supporters, which include Bob Spivak, owner of the Daily Grill, and representatives of Macerich Co., Geffen Playhouse, the Venice Chamber of Commerce and several hotels, said the process is backwards. They want the panel, which they said should consist of members from every region in the city, to first decide what kind of bureau they want and then discuss the contract.

‘Balkanized’ efforts

Critics of the proposal to split the bureau into regional entities said the plan would result in added overhead costs and create more bureaucracy.

They also say the proposal would “balkanize” the bureau into factions that independently couldn’t afford a credible marketing campaign in Southern California, let alone statewide or nationally.

“We need to be working together, not splitting our market up,” said Leron Gubler, president of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. “People who come to Los Angeles are more interested in the attractions than the boundaries.”

It’s promoting those attractions that concern members of the Valley Economic Alliance.

While group members are pleased with a bureau promotion planned for this summer that focuses on Valley attractions, they wants more attention paid to helping Valley businesses.

Between 14 percent and 16 percent of the LACVB’s funding is derived from Valley hotels, according to Bruce Ackerman, president of the alliance, but, he said, those hotels don’t see a proportional return in business.

“It’s been our contention that somewhere near that amount should be used to promote the Valley,” he said. “My concern is that we get a fair shot at using some of that money.”

For now, the alliance has decided not to lobby the city on the new LACVB contract. Instead it has asked George Kirkland, the bureau’s executive director, to present the idea of including provisions aimed at better funding regional bureaus in the process.

Meanwhile, contract negotiations are proceeding and city and LACVB officials said they expect to come to a final contract without any provision for regional or satellite bureaus.




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