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Harrisburg and visitors bureau discussing hotel tax compromise

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HARRISBURG, Pa. - The city and the area's regional visitors’ bureau say they are working to resolve a dispute over hotel tax dollars to promote the city.

The Hershey Harrisburg regional visitors bureau oversees around $300,000 collected in a hotel tax every year. But the city of Harrisburg is working on an agreement to come up with a new marketing plan to use some of the funds.

“This is public money,” Harrisburg mayor Eric Papenfuse said. “It comes from the hotel tax, and the hotel tax directs that it be spent promoting tourism for the city of Harrisburg.”

Earlier this month, the visitors’ bureau paid for billboards in the area to tease a promotional campaign to promote Harrisburg without any input from the city itself.

“I don't think it's effective and I don't think it properly represents the city of Harrisburg, but mainly I don't think that we should have an advertising campaign for the city of Harrisburg that doesn't involve the city of Harrisburg,” Papenfuse said.

He met with leaders from the visitors’ bureau and the economic development coalition last week.

“The bureau`s leadership has always remained hopeful that the City would decide to rejoin the bureau`s efforts to market the city, so they were very positive following Friday`s meeting,” Rick Dunlap, a spokesperson for the visitors’ bureau, said. “But there is much to review and discuss before an agreement is reached on the Mayor`s latest proposal."

The mayor would like to hire new staff to help market the city and create a committee that could provide stronger links to the visitors’ bureau.

“I think this is a better use of the funds moving forward. It could be done as part of a grant agreement between to visitors’ bureau and the city, and there would still be money on the table to do a general advertising campaign for the city like I know they want to do,” Papenfuse said.

The mayor will present his ideas to the Dauphin County Commission on Wednesday.