San Diego Tourism Authority Closure Diverted Last Minute

June 1, 2013

Lack of funding, provided by the San Diego-based Tourism Marketing District, almost led to the complete closure of the San Diego Tourism Authority, which would have resulted in 85 people losing their jobs and a halt to the city’s sales and marketing efforts.

SDTA operations were meant to cease June 3, but on May 31, San Diego Mayor Bob Filner signed a last-minute deal to release $5.7 million to the TMD that allowed the SDTA, the city’s convention and visitors bureau, to stay open for business.

The spat originated because of a 2-percent hotel tax that equals about $30 million annually that was meant to go to the TMD, but Mayor Filner refused to release the funds, citing 5 percent off the top, or $300,000, which needed to go to the funding of a centennial celebration in 2015 that the TMD was not approving from its budget. 

TMD originally proposed a smaller amount for the celebration, according to the mayor's office.

Todd Shallan, SDTA’s chair, said when the authority was on its way to being closed, “Unfortunately, this will negatively impact San Diego’s tourism sector and its overall economy, as well as the 160,000 men and women who work in San Diego’s signature industry.”

The closure would not have impacted the San Diego Convention Center’s operations.

“It is important to note that this will not affect the authority’s convention center sales team, which is funded through a contract with the San Diego Convention Center Corp.,” Shallan said.

Filner said of his original decision to not release the hotel tax funding, “I have had enough of the whining and complaining from the wealthiest hotels in America. It was only days ago that they submitted a bill!”

He added, “We will issue their money when they hold up their end of the bargain, for example, approving payments to the Balboa Park Centennial. This idle and baseless threat is beneath them, and I urge them to grow up and do business the right way. The City of San Diego will not be held hostage by such antics.”

The situation was resolved when the TMD board voted to release $500,000 in funding for the centennial celebration on tap for 2015 in Balboa Park.

"This is going to be the major event in San Diego in 2015. It's going to take a whole year of our energies, and San Diego is going to have the attention of the world focused on it. It's worth doing, and it's worth fighting for,” Filner said in local press reports.

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