Local hotel owner floats idea of Tourism Marketing District

Rauch

Colorado Springs hotels ought to kick in money to form a Tourism Marketing District, said one long-time hotel manager/owner who helped start the San Diego Tourism Marketing District five years ago.

Bob Rauch, president of San Diego-based R.A. Rauch & Associates, Inc and a co-owner of Colorado Springs Quality Inn & Suites at Garden of the Gods, spoke Wednesday at a luncheon of the Colorado Springs chapter of the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International.

His Colorado Springs hotel, which has 124 rooms, lost business during the Waldo Canyon fire, when both leisure and business travelers cancelled reservations the week of the fire and beyond, Rauch said.

Now, after the fire, it’s up to the local hoteliers to get back that lost business by marketing the heck out of the city, he said.

Rauch was among a group of hotel managers and owners in San Diego, where he manages a number of lodging properties, who formed the San Diego Tourism Marketing District. The group is a nonprofit organization modeled after Tourism Business Improvement Districts — types of partnerships in which business owners self-assess fees and use them to market tourism. About 180 San Diego lodges voluntarily assess themselves 2 percent above the city’s lodging tax. Last year, the group had $30 million to spend.

Hoteliers vote on how to spend the marketing money, he said. For example, last year the marketing district spent $75,000 on the California State Games and Winter Games, and gave $6.4 million to the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“The return on investment is huge,” Rauch said. “We made it through the recession with just a dip in occupancy – the impact could have been much larger.”

In Colorado Springs, the city collects a 2 percent Lodger’s and Auto Rental Tax. Last year, the city collected $3.9 million in LART. The majority of the funds goes to the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau, which also receives money from its members and the county.

The CVB spent $3.2 million promoting Colorado Springs as destination, according to the CVB 2011 Annual Stakeholders Report.

Rauch estimates that a marketing district would help the tourism industry double what it spends on marketing. It could help get the local tourism industry get back on its feet, he said.

“I have seen an email blast – Colorado Springs welcomes you back – it’s a nice email, but it’s not gotten any national or international press,” he said. “The fires sure did.”