Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Don Quixhotelier

One sign of a city’s development is its spawning of a pantheon of colorful characters. Of late, hotel magnate Harris Rosen seems determined to move from business and philanthropic leader into the “Oh, there he goes again” head-shaking category.

The first of his quixotic quests was his petition drive and simultaneous threat of a lawsuit aimed at stopping the city from proceeding with plans for the three new downtown venues. Mr. Rosen seems to believe that the citizens of our fair city are just not quite as smart as he is. Cloaking his self interest (he had lobbied hard prior to the votes to have the venues built on I-Drive near his major hotel properties) in the guise of helping Orlando, he seemed to be saying like the Great Oz, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” Fortunately, the people are a lot smarter than Mr. Rosen gives them credit for. Needing 31,000 signatures to get on the ballot and coming up with less than 10% of that number, Rosen finally threw in the towel on this venture with his usual ill grace.

Mr. Rosen and his colleagues need to stop regarding the tourist taxes as their personal slush fund. While they collect the tax, it is not even their properties that attract the tourists in the first place. Since all Orlandoans bear the brunt of playing host to the tourists, all Orlandoans should be among the beneficiaries, through public projects, of the taxes. Not to fret, boys, no one is suggesting that we cut off our nose to spite our face. There will always be a big chunk of those funds dedicated to ongoing promotion of tourism for the area. That’s not enough for Harris Rosen, though. He wants to codify his ridiculous notion that all tourist tax dollars should be reserved by law for promoting tourism. Nice work if you can get it: Having state and local tax dollars doing most of the work of driving guests to your hotel while all of the profit from those guests goes into your pocket. Hmmm. Maybe the state would pay marketing expenses to promote me as a writer…nah, they’d never go for it.

Not content to stop there, Mr. Rosen is now tilting at the big windmills, uh, I mean wind storms, or at least at those who predict them. Last month, Mr. Rosen threatened to sue Dr. William Gray regarding his seasonal hurricane forecasts, which Rosen says are hurting his business. Huh? I never saw anything in any coverage of a Colorado State team forecast that said a lot of hurricanes (or any) were going to hit Orlando—or even Florida in the last two years. Those predictions label the season active, and attempt to predict the number of storms, the intensity, and the likelihood of a certain number of them making landfall somewhere. Lucky for us and sad for them that this year it was primarily Central America that took it on the chin.

What next Mr. Rosen? Want to sue the almighty for bad weather? Perhaps sue the people who are not staying in your hotels? Give it a rest, Mr. Rosen, before the rest of us don’t listen to anything you say—or worse, laugh at everything you say. As it is, we will definitely be looking for what’s in it for you when your next pronouncement comes out.


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