Doug Kennon, proprietor of Sooner Legends Hotel, said the hotel/motel tax should be “seed-corn” to produce more heads in beds.
He said those tourists then also eat at restaurants, shop and spend money throughout the city, giving the entire community an economic boost. That boost, in turn, supports quality-of-life issues like art and the parks.
He believes the money should be earmarked to promote tourism. The arts money should be to help put on festivals that bring in people, and the parks money should help move the city closer to having facilities where tournaments can be hosted.
Kennon said second only after the recent Notre Dame football game in creating income at his hotel was the girl’s 13 and under AAU tournament. He wants the city to use the parks money to get more tournament events.
“Once people are here, they spend money,” Kennon said. “We’ve got to get them here for a reason.”
Michael Vance, general manager of Embassy Suites Norman, said the city needs to market for the future.
“We’re not opposed at all (to the tax increase),” Vance said. “We’ve got to put our finger on something that is out there that can bring in the money.”
When asked how a tax increase would impact the convention business his hotel has, Vance said a 2 percent increase would make Norman less competitive for conventions, but a 1 percent increase would be acceptable.
Paul VandRaamsdonk, of the Hilton Garden Inn, said convention business is affected by tax rates.
“We want more ball teams,” he said. “We need a plan. Give us a plan first. It’s a big advantage to be a low tax rate.”
“The challenge we face here is we’ve got to get a consensus,” Mayor Cindy Rosenthal said.
Council member Tom Kovach said he would favor a 1 percent hotel/motel tax increase.
“I honestly feel like we are missing out,” Kovach said. “There are a lot of attractions in Norman.
If the city council does not decide on a direction soon and put it before voters next spring, any tax increase would be delayed by a year, Kovach said.