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Hoteliers meet with RNC officials about convention rates and fees

Organizers of the 2012 Republican National Convention and executives of hotels contracted to house thousands of convention visitors aired their differences behind closed doors Tuesday.

"We're in a healthy dialogue," said Keith Overton of the TradeWinds Island Resorts in St. Pete Beach, among two dozen Pinellas hotel executives who met with Republican National Committee officials.

In the afternoon, convention organizers met with 10 to 20 Hills­borough hotel representatives for a similar meeting in downtown Tampa.

"Everybody is working very cooperatively together on resolving whatever differences there are between the hotels, and the (RNC's Committee on Arrangements) and the host committee," said Ken Jones, president of the 2012 Tampa Bay Host Committee.

That wasn't the case last week. Pinellas and Hillsborough hoteliers left meetings in a huff after convention organizers said they were expected to cut room rates established in year-old contracts. Hotel executives received forms with lower rates to sign and return by Friday.

RNC officials also want to increase the fee hotels pay to help cover convention expenses from $30 per room to 10 percent of each guest's hotel bill. Organizers say some rates, approved by previous Republican staffers, are too high for the market during the late summer season.

For now, none of the largest hotels in Pinellas agree to the new terms, said D.T. Minich, executive director of Visit St. Pete/Clearwater.

The Friday deadline "is a little beyond what's reasonable," said Bob Morrison, executive director of the Tampa Hillsborough County Hotel Motel Association.

On Tuesday, an RNC official declined to call Friday a deadline for responses. "We're asking that everyone turn it in," said James Davis, a spokesman for the RNC's Committee on Arrangements. "It helps us to get the process moving quickly if we can get the sheets back in a timely manner."

Organizers say they just want to facilitate a conversation that leads to terms with the hotels that will work for everyone.

"We're not threatening anyone with anything," he said. "If they don't turn it back in, we don't know where they stand."

Davis has said the committee did not make an across-the-board request that hotels lower their room rates. But he would not say how many hotels are being asked to make adjustments.

Hoteliers meet with RNC officials about convention rates and fees 11/01/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 1, 2011 10:01pm]
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