If San Diego’s City Council doesn’t extend a tourism promotion charge on hotel rooms, it can forget about a Convention Center expansion, a top hotelier said Monday.

Mike McDowell of the Lodging Industry Association is pushing for a 40-year extension of the extra 2 percent the city has charged visitors at large hotels since 2008. It’s in addition to the city’s regular 10.5 percent hotel-room tax. Beyond this extension, Mayor Jerry Sanders and others want a further 1 percent to 3 percent charge to fund the majority of the $550 million Convention Center expansion.

McDowell argued the hotel industry needed a guaranteed long-term source of marketing dollars to promote an expanded center. Bonds to finance the expansion could need 30 years to pay off. City Councilman David Alvarez asked McDowell if hoteliers would be willing to accept a five or 10 year renewal of the 2 percent marketing charge, instead of 40 years. He said no.

“Without a long-term commitment that would be concurrent with the Convention Center, probably not,” McDowell said.

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The council voted 7-1 Monday to begin the process of extending the charge with Alvarez dissenting. Hoteliers still need to vote on the plan and the council will vote at least once more.

McDowell, who is behind the ambitious plans for the tourism promotion charge and the Convention Center expansion, expressed even more ambition at the council meeting. Tourism should be a pillar of San Diego’s economy, he said:

We just believe that it’s time that we look at tourism maturely within the context of our other industries and let us be a competitor with manufacturing, let us be a competitor with the military and biotech and give us the infrastructure that we can deliver on the promise of tourism, which over the last 40 years I think has been under-delivered to this community.

Liam Dillon is a news reporter for voiceofsandiego.org. He covers San Diego City Hall and big buildings. What should he write about next?

Please contact him directly at liam.dillon@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5663.

Liam Dillon was formerly a senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He led VOSD’s investigations and wrote about how regular people...

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