Beverly Hills to Blow Its Own Horn for New Business

Times Staff Writer

Concerned about hotels and shopping centers that have sprung up around Beverly Hills in recent years, the City Council has endorsed a marketing drive designed to revitalize the city's image and bring in new business.

Although Mayor Charlotte Spadaro warned that "throwing money at the problem is not necessarily the answer to the problem," the council voted to allocate $256,000 to launch the promotion drive proposed by the Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber also wanted $500,000 to start an advertising campaign, but the council decided to hold off until a marketing study is completed.

"I was rather surprised that they were as supportive as they were," said Robert J. Marsili, general manager of the Beverly Hills Hotel. "The City Council tends to be very conservative as to the expenditure of funds, and this is a new position."

He said the chamber expects the council to underwrite the advertising campaign once a preliminary marketing study is completed.

The new marketing concept, summed up by the title "Beverly Hills as a Destination," is intended to counter a 6% drop in hotel revenues last year.

"In today's highly competitive market for the traveler and retail dollar, it no longer suffices simply to be the most famous small city in the world," the chamber's proposal said. "Our small city is about to be completely overwhelmed by West Hollywood and Los Angeles."

Figures presented by the chamber said that the drop in hotel business means a $9-million to $12-million decrease in sales volume for the city, with a corresponding loss of $600,000 in the business taxes that make up 70% of municipal revenue.

Its proposal calls for the city to pay for a $40,000 market survey to determine the impact of four new hotels being built just outside Beverly Hills.

Other measures include an information service based on a free telephone line available by dialing 1-800-BEVERLY. Two staffers would answer questions about hotels, shopping and sightseeing in the city, at a proposed cost of $91,194 a year.

The chamber also proposed hiring a public relations firm at $70,000 to sell the city to the travel industry and to the public at large and spending another $55,767 on posters, brochures and lapel pins.

The proposed advertising campaign would include announcements in trade publications and upscale magazines such as Travel and Leisure and Gourmet. It also would be focused on a different target city every year, most likely starting with New York.

Representatives of the business community urged the city to underwrite the promotional effort, saying that it would bring multifold benefits.

"Beverly Hills has so much to sell, and so many people may not realize we are competitive in every way and really desire tourism," said Fred Hayman, co-owner of the Giorgio clothing store.

"This is one of the finest resorts in the world and we simply have to tell people we want them to come here," Hayman said.

Spadaro said that publicity was not the whole answer to the problem, noting that shopping centers in nearby Los Angeles stay open late into the evening, unlike Beverly Hills shops.

Other council members noted that parking and traffic congestion also contribute to the problem.

While he supported the proposal, City Manager Edward S. Kreins said it might be a good idea to consider increasing the hotel bed tax or finding other sources of revenue to underwrite large-scale spending for advertising.

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