|By Ray Reyes, Tampa Tribune,
Fla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Nov. 02, 2011--TAMPA -- Hotel managers from the Tampa Bay area will meet Thursday to further discuss a request by a GOP committee to lower room rates during the 2012 Republican National Convention.
Those in the hospitality industry were surprised by the proposal, because contracts for room rates were agreed upon and signed a year ago by both convention officials and participating hotels, said Bob Morrison, the executive director of the Hillsborough County Hotel Motel Association.
"That's the concern, that there's a standing agreement," Morrison said. "So let's sit down and talk. Let's truly understand why this request is being made."
A company hired by RNC officials to manage blocks of rooms for convention delegates announced the proposal for lower rates last week.
The second meeting on the issue will be held at noon on Thursday at the Wyndam Tampa Westshore, 700 N. West Shore Blvd., Morrison said. RNC and city officials are expected to attend.
RNC officials just want to make sure that rates are fair not only for hoteliers but visitors, said James Davis, spokesman for the Committee on Arrangements, which plans conventions for the Republican National Committee.
"This is not an across the board request for rate reductions," Davis said. "We are working with area hotels on a one-on-one basis to ensure that we find rates that are fair, reasonable and ultimately, good for all parties, including the nearly 50,000 visitors during the convention week and local hoteliers."
Davis said that some contracts signed in August 2010 are "out of line" with industry standards and rates for late summer bookings in Tampa. Davis declined to disclose which hotels, and how many, had contracts that may need to be tweaked.
About 95 hotels signed contracts with the 2012 Tampa Bay Host Committee to reserve 15,000 rooms for the convention, RNC officials said.
Those deals were struck when then-Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele was in charge of planning the convention in Tampa. But Steele was replaced after GOP officials learned that he and his convention team used taxpayers' money to rent a waterfront mansion, dine at 5-star restaurants and hire friends and family members.
In all, Steele and his convention team rung up $1 million in charges, using a line of credit backed by federal funding.
While local hotel managers prepare for another round of discussions on room rates, Mayor Bob Buckhorn visited Tallahassee on Tuesday, making the rounds with lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott.
Scott and Buckhorn discussed several topics, including the mayor's request for $55 million in federal money, $25 million of which would pay for extra security during the Republican National Convention.
"We're going to have to hire 4,000 law enforcement personnel," Buckhorn said. "We need the federal government to get moving, and get moving fast."
Scott said he too has made some inquiries on when Tampa would get the money, but did it independently and not at Buckhorn's behest.
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