COUNCIL APPROVES EXTENDING HOTEL TAX LEVY PROGRAM FOR ANOTHER FIVE YEARS
With the overwhelming support of local hotel and motel owners, Town of Osoyoos council has voted to renew its program to charge a two per cent hotel room tax levy for the next five years.
Back in the spring of 2007, only 54 per cent of local hotel and motel owners supported the concept of charging a two per cent hotel tax, but that number has increased to 82 per cent as business owners have seen the benefits of the great work done by Destination Osoyoos, which reaps the benefits of the Additional Hotel Room Tax (AHRT), said community development manager Jim Newman at Monday’s regular meeting of town council.
The tax levy provided just under $283,000 in revenue for Destination Osoyoos in 2011, which has officially been designated as the town’s official tourism promotion and marketing organization, said Newman.
With council’s approval to extend the hotel tax levy for another five years, until the end of March 2017, staff will be asking the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS) to support the resolution and ask for their continued support identifying the Town of Osoyoos as a resort municipality and tourist destination, said Newman.
Coun. C.J. Rhodes said he’s pleased the vast majority of local hotel and motel owners are on board to continue the hotel tax levy program over the next five years as it shows him the money being forwarded to Destination Osoyoos to promote and market the town is being well spent and having a major impact on drawing tourists to this community.
Because Osoyoos has been designated as an official tourist destination community by the provincial government, a great deal of matching funding is forwarded to the town from the province and the hotel tax levy ends up generating additional funding for the town, said Wells.
Coun. Sue McKortoff said the overwhelming support for the hotel tax levy program to continue for another five years is a clear sign the hotel and motel owners recognize the benefits of the tax in helping promote and market the town and generating new customers for their business.
“We’re not the only ones who think that it’s a good idea, but so do the hotel owners and that’s very good news,” she said. “It shows solid buy-in from those running these businesses.”
The AHRT is a provincial tax collected by the hoteliers, submitted to the B.C. government, and transferred back to designated municipalities and regional districts to assist with funding tourism marketing, programs and projects.
There are currently about 50 communities in B.C. that apply the two per cent hotel room tax to help fund their community programs and initiatives.
All AHRT municipalities must apply to the government for renewal every five years and must have more than 51 per cent of local accommodation providers supporting collection of the tax.
Once approved by the RDOS, applications will be made to the provincial government for approval, said Newman.
Destination Osoyoos is the steward of the AHRT funds under a contractual agreement with the Town of Osoyoos, RDOS Area A and Nk’ Mip Resort Association, and executes the multi-year Tourism Development Plan, developed in collaboration with the industry-led Tourism Advisory Committee, he said.
Osoyoos Mayor Stu Wells is pleased with what he calls a “true vote of confidence. This is grand for the tourism marketing of Osoyoos,” he stated. “One of the most important aspects of this endorsement is the leveraging vehicle we get, as we can now acquire the Resort Municipality Initiative Funding, which matches the AHRT.
“This is critical for us, and without it, we would have virtually no marketing dollars.”
The Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation’s Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI), provides this incentive-based funding stream to help maintain and grow the tourism economy.
“Osoyoos has achieved much recognition over the past five years,” said Destination Osoyoos executive director Jo Knight. “The AHRT funds provided us with the opportunity to create highly-visible marketing initiatives such as being a Diamond Sponsor with the Scotties Tournament of Hearts; placement of the Osoyoos logo on the Gunless DVD jacket cover; and extensive media coverage on Osoyoos on ET Canada with the Osoyoos Celebrity Wine Festival.
“The annual Osoyoos Visitor Guide, HD Osoyoos DVD and a visitor-focused website are essential marketing tools that have assisted in inviting and informing visitors from around the globe. The AHRT funds have provided effective and efficient leveraging.”
Don Brogan, board chair with Destination Osoyoos, said he is ecstatic with the confidence and support of tourism stakeholders
“It’s absolutely paramount that as one of the province’s 14 resort municipalities, that we have these funds for marketing Osoyoos in a world-class fashion.”
“The wonderful thing about this tax money is that it gets directly reinvested into our community where it belongs,” stated Ron Stephens, Chair, Osoyoos Hotel Motel Association. “It directly benefits our community as we will continue to have the financial means to draw tourism to Osoyoos. It also directly benefits our visitors as we’ll have funds to sustain and maintain the things about Osoyoos that make it a distinctive destination.”
“Destination Osoyoos sincerely thanks the accommodators for supporting the AHRT. We recognize that they are the foundation of this process and we applaud them for their vision, recognizing that these funds are a key to securing prosperity for our community and building a world-class visitor experience,” concluded Knight.
“It is an honor to serve our community as stewards of the AHRT funds and the Tourism Development Plan and we look forward to continuing to extend Canada’s warmest welcome.”