The Marana Town Council has taken the first step toward creating its own separate visitors bureau.

The town has been on rocky terms with the Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau for six months.

The council voted 5-1 Tuesday to direct the town staff to prepare to contract for tourism-promotion services.

Council member Herb Kai voted no, saying the town should "pay to play" in the tourism business and join the bureau.

"We need to make investments if we want people to know about this community and come here," Town Manager Gilbert Davidson told the council, but Marana has options beyond the bureau.

Marana's bed-tax revenue is about $1.28 million. The bureau would charge 25 percent of that for membership, but the first two years of the contract would be deeply discounted.

The bureau depends on bed-tax dollars from local governments to pay for its operations.

Marana already pays for a state land lease, plus it has bed-tax rebates, impact-fee waivers and special-event sales-tax waivers - all of which it signed to land the Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain. Until recently the town paid for the resort's bureau membership.

If the town joined the bureau, it would pay close to $1 million in membership dues and lease payments, Davidson said, and the town would stop putting bed-tax money into the general fund.

Council member Roxanne Ziegler said the bureau left the town no choice.

"They've told us where to go," she said. "They don't want our money, they handed it back, said it's not doable, so I think we need to look at other options."

Bureau CEO Brent DeRaad said Wednesday he commends Marana for looking at ways to increase tourism, which will benefit the whole region.

Contact reporter Becky Pallack at or 573-4346. On Twitter @BeckyPallack.