Thursday April 17, 2014

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SCT revisits hotel tax


Sunshine Coast Tourism (SCT) is gearing up for another attempt to introduce a two per cent hotel tax.

An earlier bid was defeated late last year after SCT fell short of a majority of accommodation providers who supported the municipal and regional district tax (MRDT).

SCT board member Jack Barr, owner of the Powell River Town Centre Hotel, said he and three other major operators have formed a subcommittee “to get this thing going again and look at it with fresh eyes.”

With about 44 eligible operators on the Coast, Barr said he and the other three committee members will split up the list and talk individually to the owners.

“We’ll just sit down and have some general discussions,” he said. “Chances are a few will always be against it.”

Barr said the Sunshine Coast is one of only about three regions in the province that does not have an MRDT to help pay for marketing initiatives. The tax was expected to raise about $250,000 per year.

“We need it big time. We are currently disadvantaged,” Barr said. “We’re being out-marketed by other areas.”

The City of Kelowna, he said, went through similar pains 10 years ago before opting to introduce the tax, and has recently renewed it.

In a survey of members after last year’s setback, Barr said the MRDT had the highest support among respondents when they were asked to identify the program that would best increase tourism revenue.

“With this renewed attempt with new information, we feel we can give it a better shot. We’ve done our homework this time,” he said, adding that he hoped to have the process completed by next summer.

SCT had the support of 57 per cent of eligible operators when it submitted its original application to the province in July 2012, but opponents responded with a petition showing a majority of operators were against the tax.

In the end, SCT came up three operators short of a majority before the province closed the group’s application.

One of the main objections was that the tax would impact only customers of the eligible accommodation sector, rather than all 350 SCT members.



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