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To Combat "Bait and Switch" Tactics the City of Flagstaff, Arizona Adopts
 Law Requiring Hotel Operators Who Advertise Rates on Marquees
 to Post Both Highest and Lowest Rates

By Chris Markham, The Arizona Daily Sun, Flagstaff
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Mar. 2, 2005 - Just as local hotel and motel operators head into their shoulder season -- the period between the slow winter and busy summer tourist seasons -- the rules of battle are getting stricter when it comes to price wars.

A new law adopted unanimously by the Flagstaff City Council Tuesday will require hotel and motel operators who advertise rates on their marquees to post their lowest and highest rates and to pay city auditors $75 per room per year to make sure the establishment's following the rules.

Guests and visitors have sent letters to the city, to the Flagstaff Convention and Visitors Bureau and to the Chamber of Commerce complaining that rates posted on marquee signs were not being offered to the guest, said Mark Ross, president of the Flagstaff Hospitality and Innkeepers Association.

Of the association's 62 members, 56 favor the new law, Ross said.

The new law will also restrict the range between highest and lowest rates for motel operators who advertise to 30 percent more than the minimum.

This means if a room advertised on the low end at $30 a night, the motel would be limited to a $39 maximum price for the same type of room.

And that's what riles Patrick McCabe, manager of the Quality Inn on South Milton Road.

"Our numbers currently say $34 to $54, a range of 59 percent," McCabe stated in a letter addressed to the City Council. "That means a single person can get a second-floor queen room without a view for $34 plus tax.

Two people can get a first-floor king room with a view for $54 plus tax."

In the letter, McCabe said he could live with a 60 percent spread. He also wants motel managers to have the freedom to post the lowest single room and the highest double.

"What's next?" McCabe wrote. "Are restaurants not going to be able to post their specials anymore?"

But the ordinance will combat "bait and switch" tactics that hurt the city's reputation, according to a city staff report.

"If a hotel wants to post rates, and they're going to be legitimate rates, then they should be able to do so," Ross said. "There just needs to be some guidelines in place to protect not only the visitors coming into our town, but to protect the image of our community."

But having those guidelines enforced will cost motel operators. Under the new law, hotels and motels that advertise room rates will be subjected to yearly audits at a rate of $75 per guest room. Audits may also be done when the city receives complaints about a particular hotel.

To McCabe, who estimates advertising on his marquee boosts business about 10 percent per night, the ordinance is a slap in the face to local motels that don't happen to border highways.

"Where was the city council when the Battleship Hampton was allowed to be built so close to I-17?" he said. "Once they turn on Forest Meadows, we don't have a shot."


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(c) 2005, The Arizona Daily Sun. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.

Copyright (c) 2005, The Arizona Daily Sun, Flagstaff

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