The ball is in their court.
Forty-six accommodation operators on the Sunshine Coast will decide the fate of the two per cent hotel room tax — and a majority can kill it by doing nothing.
In a process that was approved by the province’s Ministry of Finance, the operators will have two options: endorse the tax by sending a letter of support to their regional district office, or oppose it by not sending a letter, Sunshine Coast Tourism (SCT) president Celia Robben said.
The regional districts’ staff will compile the letters of support and “if and when they reach a majority, they will forward them to the province,” Robben said.
While there is no hard and fast deadline, “we would like to have everything wrapped up in October,” she said. “This can’t go on all winter, either.”
Coming on the heels of a counter petition signed by 26 of the affected 46 operators, in all likelihood the Municipal and Regional District Tax (MRDT) is dead, said one of the petition organizers.
“I would say there isn’t a chance, but I don’t know what’s on everybody else’s mind,” said Colin MacLean, owner of Discovery Place Retreat in Roberts Creek.
In an e-mail sent Monday to other hotel operators, lead petitioner Josaphine Scheifele, co-owner of Desolation Resort in Lund, rejected the idea of holding another meeting to discuss the tax, saying it would not be helpful or productive.
Her reasons were twofold. The MRDT process was not initiated by the accommodation providers with four or more rooms who are solely subject to the tax, and the majority of SCT members, about 90 per cent who are not subject to the tax, would control the board and the funds raised through the tax.
MacLean said the petitioners are working towards an eventual meeting and will forward some “fair and equitable ideas” to SCT afterwards.
“We have some ideas that we think are very good ideas that SCT might actually like,” he said.
One of those ideas is to have all SCT members fund the group’s marketing program — “and then it comes down to whether they want to fund it or not,” MacLean said.
“Once this MRDT process is finalized, one way or the other, then we’ll know where we stand and we can move on from there,” he added.
One of the problems with developing new funding models, Robben said, is that the MRDT is the only model currently approved by the province.
“The truth is, there’s nothing ready to go of a similar nature. Local governments are not going to raise taxes to fund tourism marketing. There is no other taxation method,” she said.
Regardless of the outcome, Robben said there is now no way the room tax will be implemented Jan. 1 as originally planned. The enabling legislation would have to be approved by cabinet and then it would take about 90 days for the Ministry of Finance to implement the tax, she said.
In the meantime, “if there are operators who have questions, they should not sit quietly,” she said. “Let’s have a discussion.”
The MRDT was expected to generate about $250,000 per year, 75 per cent for regional marketing and 25 per cent for local tourism-enhancement projects.