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Less people traveling to El Paso; Hoteliers feel ballpark funding could suffer

EL PASO, Texas -- Less people traveled through the El Paso International Airport in 2013 than in 2012, and that trend's been on a steady decline since 2007, officials said.

Those in the hotel industry said they've also taken a hit.

This has some worried there are some shortfalls with the Hotel Occupancy Tax, which is the main funding source for the downtown ballpark.

"I can tell you that hotel revenue in this city is down 3.1 percent from last year," said Rick LaFleur, president of the El Paso Hotel Motel Association.

"All of our revenues are meeting our projections so I don't know what they're talking about," said El Paso City Manager Joyce Wilson.

Around 2.7 million people traveled through El Paso international in 2013, according to airport officials.

It's a pretty big number, but it's actually a 6.1 percent drop, or 176,000 people less, from the year before, officials said.

"Whenever you see numbers, as far as people visiting your city on a downward spiral, it's concerning," LaFleur said.

LaFleur said hotel rooms are also more vacant.

"The fewer people that are coming to our community through the airport, it hurts," LaFleur said.

But Wilson said you can't correlate not having airfare with the hotel occupancy tax.

"The airlines are all cutting back and they've been continuing to cut back to improve their profitability," Wilson said.

Officials at the El Paso Airport said that's true.

Though less people are flying in, it isn't really affecting operations since the airlines only account for a small portion of their revenues.

Wilson also said more tourists drive into El Paso than fly anyway.

LaFleur is still hesitant.

"We got to pay for the baseball stadium, and we got to figure this out because I know there's some shortfalls there," LaFleur said.

"Well, we have multiple sources of revenue that are going to pay for it. So it's rent, it's parking revenues, it's sales tax," Wilson said.



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