Sunshine Coast Tourism (SCT) is one step closer to adopting a new hotel tax that will potentially triple the region’s current tourism budget.
The two per cent municipal regional district tax (MRDT) is a tax that operators of hotels, motels and other eligible lodgings charge guests on the purchase price of accommodation. Already in place in more than 50 regions in B.C., the purpose of the MRDT is to assist communities in promoting their tourism industry and financing new tourist facilities or programs. This will enable the organization to market the region at an entirely new level, generating significant tourism growth for the region.
The first phase of the application process to implement the MRDT in the Powell River and Sunshine Coast regional districts is now complete. SCT submitted the application to the Ministry of Finance in July along with letters of support from all six local governments and the requisite signatures of approval representing the majority of eligible accommodation providers.
“Additional resources will enable SCT to ramp up its plans to create a long-term strategy for a sustainable tourism industry that can consistently showcase the region’s strengths in key markets,” said Celia Robben, president of Sunshine Coast Tourism, in a news release. “A strong, collaborative effort combined with those resources will really help to level the playing field in the competitive B.C. tourism market.”
The resulting funds from the proposed MRDT for the Sunshine Coast are estimated to be $250,000 per year, which will increase SCT’s current budget to a total of approximately $375,000. The proposed business plan assumes a 75/25 financial model with 75 per cent of MRDT receipts designated for regional marketing initiatives and 25 per cent designated for local projects that enhance the visitor experience. Growth is projected at four per cent per year in overall room revenues for the entire region.
“We are thrilled to be one step closer to completing this process,” added SCT vice president and Powell River resident, Eagle Walz. “It is gratifying to see all the communities on the Coast working together to maximize the positive aspects of tourism and our economic growth, while also protecting our resources for this and future generations.”
As part of the strategy to ensure the MRDT’s successful implementation, the SCT board of directors participated in a workshop, Governing for Success: Enhancing Board Performance, sponsored by Tourism BC and the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation.
Changes to SCT bylaws will be required for the new policy board model, and the current board was able to make significant progress in charting the direction of those changes. The funds from the MRDT will enable SCT to hire more staff and move from a volunteer working board to a policy board that provides strategic direction. The structure of the new board will maintain its current policy to have equal representation from all regions and key stakeholders. The accommodation sector will collect the MRDT and have a significant voice on the board of directors and on the new finance committee with other board seats reserved for arts, culture and heritage, recreation and members at large.
SCT has requested implementation of the MRDT by Jan. 1, 2013; however, the actual starting date depends on the ongoing process that the Ministry of Finance must take before approving the application. The necessary bylaw revisions will be presented to the membership for approval at the annual general meeting on Oct. 3 at the West Coast Wilderness Lodge.