Business of Selling San Diego on Hold

The business of selling San Diego is on hold while millions of dollars is at the center of a legal battle between the tourism marketing industry and the mayor’s office.

On Friday, one of the industry’s leaders said if funds aren’t released the likelihood of the San Diego Tourism Authority’s ability to keep its doors open is limited.

When tourism industry representatives met in Mission Beach Friday to select the 2014 programs and events they will recommend funding, they also discussed the ongoing lawsuit over approximately $30 million in hotel surcharge funds they had planned to spend in 2013.

Hoteliers say they have the right to money raised through a special tax levied on lodging guests put in to place to promote San Diego as a tourist destination.

Mayor Bob Filner has refused to sign the contract releasing the funds without concessions that hotel owners have rejected.

The Tourism Marketing District (TMD) plans to use that money to lure tourists to San Diego instead of competing cities like San Francisco or Los Angeles.

“We have to be out there. This is not just a want. It’s a vital need,” said San Diego Tourism Marketing Corporation Executive Director Lorin Stewart.

A San Diego judge has agreed to expedite his ruling on the lawsuit. Both sides are hoping to have an answer by March 22.

Even with an expedited ruling, Joe Terzi with the San Diego Tourism Authority (SDTA) told NBC 7 San Diego the group may have trouble keeping its doors open during the peak travel season – summertime.

The TMD provides 80% of the SDTA’s annual budget through allocations like the ones being voted on Friday.

The SDTA has not received funding since January and Terzi said the organization is operating off money from its private source income and membership.

At this rate, he estimates the SDTA will run out of money in April and may have trouble staying in business.

“It takes San Diego off the map when most of the other destinations are stepping up their marketing efforts,” Terzi said explaining that the group typically spends more than $8 million that they’re not spending just before the summer travel season.

Among the events approved by the group in the past are the upcoming Crew Classic, the annual football events in December – the Holiday Bowl and the Poinsettia Bowl and the Rock and Roll Marathon.

Stewart said the San Diego Brewers’ Guild and the San Diego Film Festival have also requested funding for 2014.

He said the return on investment is good – pointing out that San Diego had the first large tourism marketing district. Now there are 74 marketing districts across the state of California all competing for the tourism dollar.

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