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San Antonio Approves Higher Hotel Fees but Skips Using Them to Help the Homeless

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PHOTO VIA INSTAGRAM / VISITSANANTONIO
City council voted Thursday morning to let the hospitality industry collect additional hotel funds so San Antonio can up its marketing game.

A lone holdout, District 4 Councilman Rey Saldaña, voted against the measure, saying he wanted a delay so the city could mull devoting a share of the new money to groups aiding the city's homeless population.

Starting in January, a newly created Tourism Public Improvement District (or TPID) will collect a 1.25 percent fee from guests staying in hotels with 100 or more rooms. That would generate more than $10 million year, primarily slated for advertising and marketing for the city's tourist trade.

Hospitality industry officials said the city needed the new source of funds to remain competitive. Denver, New Orleans and Napa Valley are among the destinations that use a similar fee structure to collect promotional dollars.

However, Joleen Garcia with the Texas Organizing Project urged the city to reject or delay the vote. She pointed out that many low-wage workers in the hospitality industry are potentially a paycheck away from homelessness.

"What does it say about us when we cannot ask a billion-dollar industry to support our most vulnerable?" she asked.

But, in the end, the majority of council opted to approve, saying they would look for other ways to remedy San Antonio's homelessness problem.

District 8 Councilman Manny Pelaez urged hotel industry officials to work with him to develop new plans to aid the homeless population. He said council's approval of the TPID doesn't mean it's rejecting other aid options.

"That is a false binary choice," Pelaez said.

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