Visitors Bureau and Marana continue feud

2013-01-17T12:02:00Z Visitors Bureau and Marana continue feudBecky Pallack Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

After several tries the Tucson visitors bureau and the town of Marana haven’t been able to make up after a dramatic breakup.

They split because the town would not promise to spend a portion of its hotel bed-tax revenue on regional tourism marketing.

The visitors bureau depends on local bed-tax dollars from Pima County, the city of Tucson and the town of Oro Valley for about 85 percent of its funding.

The Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau board voted in November to make Marana hotels and resorts ineligible for membership.

The membership of the Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain, a top resort in the Southwest, expired this week. Two other Marana hotel members were dropped and their dues were refunded.

Marana proposed a way for the two groups to stay friends. The town offered to contribute $35,000 this year even though “we believe Marana is doing far more than its fair share” for the region, town manager Gilbert Davidson wrote to visitors bureau CEO Brent DeRaad.

The town collects about $1.9 million in bed taxes but rebates $100,000 of that to the Ritz-Carlton and pays $500,000 a year on a lease for state land in the Tortolita Preserve that meets the open-space requirements for the Ritz resort.

But the visitors bureau board rejected the town’s offer, saying $35,000 is only 2 percent of the collected bed tax revenue, and made a counter proposal.

At a board meeting today, board member Paul Zucarelli said the $35,000 would be a Band-Aid and the board is looking for a long-term fix.

“The town of Marana needs to match Oro Valley’s 8.33 percent investment in order for Marana hotels and resorts to be eligible for CVB membership,” DeRaad wrote to Davidson.

By DeRaad’s calculations, that’s $158,270 — more than four times the amount Marana offered to pay — plus membership dues from resorts and hotels.

Marana rejected that plan.

The visitor bureau left open the possibility of reconciliation; however, each side thinks the other is being unreasonable.

“From my standpoint, I feel we made a very fair offer and that our door is open should Marana reconsider,” DeRaad wrote in a memo to board leaders.

Contact reporter Becky Pallack at bpallack@azstarnet.com or 573-4346. On Twitter @BeckyPallack.

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