Critical tourism decision is tonight

A tax on hotel and motel rooms needs support to continue

Whether or not a local tourism body can renew a tax it uses to promote the area will be decided tonight.

Kermodei Tourism, the local group responsible for tourism promotion in the region, is holding its annual general meeting tonight and whether or not it has enough support from the local accommodations sector to renew the tax will be seen then.

The meeting starts at 7 p.m. at the Waap Galtsap Longhouse at Northwest Community College, and anyone interested in regional tourism is invited. Management from the Sandman Hotels Inns and Suites chain will be there to find out if locals support the renewal of what amounts to a two per cent tax tax levied off the price of hotel and motel rooms.

The support of Terrace’s Sandman Inn will be enough to tip the balance of support in favour of renewing the tax, which requires a majority of support from hotels and motels with a majority of beds.

Currently, not enough have signed on, and Kermodei Tourism’s deadline to gather signatures in favour is tomorrow.

As of now, seven out of 15 Terrace and Thornhill hotel and motel owners, accounting for 42 per cent of 480 rooms, are onboard for the renewal.

If the Sandman Inn in Terrace signs on, those numbers will shift to 53 per cent of hoteliers with 54 per cent of rooms.

Having enough signatures means Kermodei tourism can then apply to the province to have the tax renewed.

Over the years, Kermodei has received as much as $127,000 from the tax.

It also operates using $75,000 given yearly by the City of Terrace.

Sandman Hotels Inns and Suites marketing vice president Salim Kassam said the chain wants to “make sure the community wants this” before Terrace’s Sandman Inn signs on.

There are various opinions in the local accommodations sector about the tax.

Operations manager Dan Biggs of Terrace’s Best Western and Coast Inn of the West said the tax is good for the community as it promotes Terrace beyond the geographic reach of what local media can.

“People have already been paying it and will continue to pay it as long as they need a place to stay when traveling,” he said. “If we show people what Terrace has to offer that will improve chances of them visiting out beautiful city.”

Biggs added that the tax charge per room is minimal compared to the benefit it provides for businesses in the community.

“[Kermodei] Tourism’s only job is to bring people to our community,” he said.

But the owner of the Costa Lessa Motel in Thornhill disagrees.

“I’d like to see it disappear,” said owner Edward Johnson. “The last three years, the hotel business has been in the toilet.

For his motel, about $11,000 in tax money was levied last year, and it prevents Johnson from raising rates to cover expenses because he needs to stay competitive.

“If we could put another two per cent in our pocket, we’d be stylin’,” he said.

Johnson also said that the figure of $38 million generated yearly from tourism is misleading.

Many of his clients travel from within the northwest region as Terrace is home to essential services not available elsewhere.

“We’re not taxing the tourists,” he said, adding that construction workers and people who travel to Terrace from rural areas for health care services are also taxed.