Hotel Occupancy Dips, And Groups Who Depend On Those Tax Monies Keep A Wary Eye

If yesterday's Chron story on projected drops in hotel tax revenues  gave you the frightening impression that Minute Maid Park might shutter its doors, or at least make the entire Astros roster sweep the bleachers and maintain the field, you may exhale -- at least for now.

Janis Schmees, executive director of the Harris County/Houston Sports Authority -- which pays stadium bonds through hotel occupancy and car rental tax revenue -- told Hair Balls that her latest numbers are actually up this year. That's because the Authority's cut of those revenues is legislatively mandated.

She shared her numbers with us, and they show that while there was a slight dip ($580,000) in car rental tax compared to this time last year, hotel revenue increased nearly $1.9 million. All told, the Authority is about $1.2 million ahead of where it was this time last year. Schmees cautioned us not to break out the bubbly quite just yet, as the dour projections in the PKF report may catch up to the Authority down the road.

As for the Greater Houston Convention and Business Bureau, VP of Marketing Holly Clapham told us that they've created enough of an operational reserve that the projected dips won't necessitate any program cuts. She says the Bureau cut its budget 5 percent this past fiscal year and 10 percent for the next year.

"That formed an operational reserve which will allow us to continue to market and sell the city without having to cut programs," Clapham told Hair Balls, adding later, "The worst thing you could do is to stop marketing, so you have to think smarter and operate smarter."

Amen. But it still wouldn't hurt if everyone reading this checked into the ZaZa for a night or two.

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