Following a spirited and lengthy discussion from City Council on whether the event should be granted money from Bee Cave’s coffers, the Lake Travis Film Festival has just doubled its hotel tax funding to $80,000.
LTFF’s first successful bid for hotel tax funding came during Lakeway’s May 20 City Council meeting. The request was for $40,000 from the city’s hotel occupancy tax fund.
LTFF Executive Director Kat Albert requested and received another $40,000 from the city of Bee Cave in a unanimous vote during the City Council’s June 25 meeting.
By law, hotel tax money must be used to promote tourism, and may be allocated for a broad range of uses within that charge, from advertising to paying visiting artists’ fees.
“We feel like in a few years, this event has the potential to fill hotels in Bee Cave,” Albert said to council.
In a letter to council, Albert stated the money would go toward advertising, arts promotion and registration of convention delegates in support of LTFF, which is slated to show films in venues not yet disclosed in Lakeway and Bee Cave.
“We have been working diligently with the Sonesta Hotel as the host hotel for our VIPs and a major sponsor,” Albert stated in her letter. “The funds we are requesting are around 20% of our current budget and would make our event even more special.”
Information Albert presented to council stated radio advertising will be a major part of her advertising strategy, and will target 450,000 combined potential tourists from the Houston and Dallas markets.
Albert also discussed a Lake Travis Film Festival experience promotion to be aired on upscale radio stations through which listeners will be invited to enter to win a trip to the festival, stay at the Sonesta Hotel Bee Cave and receive event tickets.
The festival has no historical information to report, but during her presentation in May to Lakeway City Council, Albert estimated registrants and attendees at 2,000 people over the course of the four-day event, which is planned to take place Feb. 27-March 1, 2020.
Council member Andrea Willott said she had a problem with the amount of money requested by LTFF and cited the film festival based in Fredericksburg, the Hill Country Film Festival, which one year only received $8,000 in hotel tax money. Willott also brought up a lackluster attendance at that festival.
Albert replied that while Fredericksburg is a great city, it is different from the Lake Travis area primarily because it is not near a major urban arts hub like Austin.
Mayor Monty Parker also said he wanted to be cautious with the allocation of the funding, as this was the city’s first request in 2019 for hotel tax money.
“Honestly, when you bring in the talent, you bring in a lot of people,” Albert said, and added that after the first year of the event there will be much more data to analyze.
Adrian Overstreet, who owns the Sonesta Bee Cave Austin Hotel, spoke before council and requested that if the city granted the money to LTFF, then LTFF should pay in advance for the 90 hotel rooms it guaranteed would be occupied in Bee Cave as part of the event.
“To guarantee a hotel room, you have to put up the money,” Overstreet said, adding he has committed to helping LTFF with amenities including aforementioned free rooms at the Sonesta Hotel. “I’m not trying to do anything but make sure the public funds are spent in a responsible way.”
Council member Kara King replied as a policy that is a slippery slope, because then the city would have to demand some sort of monetary guarantee from all who request hotel tax money.