Room tax deadline looms

Whether a local tourism body will have a tax renewed that’s used now to promote regional tourism may be up to a major hotel chain.

WHETHER a local tourism body will have a tax renewed that’s used now to promote regional tourism may be up to a major hotel chain.

Kermodei Tourism, the Terrace-based marketing body responsible for  regional tourism promotion, needs support from a majority of local hotel and motel owners to re-apply for the tax but is just short of the goal.

The two per cent levy added to the rental rate of hotel and motel rooms brought in  $105,000 up until October in 2011, $112,438 for all of 2010, $115,000 in 2009 and in 2008, $127,097.

And the Vancouver head office of Terrace’s Sandman Inn hasn’t yet decided whether or not to support the local tax and tourism body. Its support would be enough to renew the tax.

“We want to make sure the community wants this,” said Salim Kassam, vice president of marketing for Sandman Hotels Inns and Suites which has 24 hotels across B.C.

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

Upper Sandman management will travel to Terrace to gauge community support, said Kassam. They’ll also be  at the Feb. 28 annual general meeting of Kermodei Tourism.

“We’ll decide then,” said Kassam. “We’re going to talk to members of the community and other hoteliers and make a decision based on that.”

Kassam said there are some communities in B.C. where Sandman has supported the tax, and some where it hasn’t.

It all depends on making sure proper steps are taken to look into community attitudes first, he said.

In the meantime, Kermodei Tourism general manager Graham Genge is working to convince other local hoteliers to support the tax renewal.

While owners of one local motel, the Alpine House, have talked about why they won’t be signing on — which is that their customers complain about the tax — many who aren’t yet on board are staying tight lipped.

Kermodei Tourism needs to collect signatures of support by February’s end in order to apply to the province for renewal.

The tax’s term is up this summer and the renewal process takes time.

The end of February falls one day after the date of Kermodei Tourism’s annual general meeting.

The goal of the meeting for Kermodei Tourism is to talk about plans for the coming year and what having a tourism body means to local business.

If Kermodei Tourism doesn’t get enough signatures, Genge said the fallback would be to ask the city for more money and failing that, local businesses may have to take on a larger tourism promotional role.

“It could become a pay-to-play model,” Genge said.

But some local businesses do also tackle marketing themselves.

“We basically promote ourselves and we do that through a variety of ways,” said Mandy McDougal, co-ordinator for West Coast Fishing which is a local fishing lodge and B&B.

She said it is common for the lodge to host travel writers from various publications.

McDougal said  West Coast Fishing has  also contributed to television fishing shows, which Kermodei Tourism has done as well.

The lodge also benefits from an online presence, she added, saying  the lodge has seen more Albertan and European clients lately as a result of its marketing work.

But not every business in Terrace can afford far-reaching tourism promotion by itself, said Dan Biggs, who manages both the Best Western Hotel and the Coast Inn of the West.

Kermodei is able to reach places local media advertising doesn’t, and a tax that consumers generally find affordable ends up helping the entire business community by attracting people here, he said.

A 2008 study by the B.C. tourism ministry estimated that tourism brings in $38 million a year to Terrace and area from 260,000 visitors, not including money spent at fishing lodges.

 

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