The Vancouver Island Visitor Centre for the Comox Valley. Photo by Mike Chouinard

The Vancouver Island Visitor Centre for the Comox Valley. Photo by Mike Chouinard

Cumberland considers regional tourism arrangement

Council will look into fee-for-service set-up with the regional body

If Cumberland joins the region’s new tourism body, there are likely to be a few details to iron out.

Representatives from the Comox Valley Regional District spoke to council at a committee of the whole meeting earlier in August to talk about the new Regional Tourism Service.

This is overseen by a board of local government representatives, with Tourism Vancouver Island handling the work of managing area tourism and marketing the Comox Valley. It replaces the Comox Valley Economic Development Society, which has since been dissolved after the region announced its intention to go a different direction in 2021.

RELATED STORY: Cumberland re-thinking regional tourism body

Cumberland has followed its own path when it comes to general economic development for several years after it was dissatisfied with CVEDS.

The new tourism body currently includes the City of Courtenay and the three electoral areas in the CVRD. Comox is not a member but has a fee-for-service arrangement. Cumberland is also in the situation now of considering fee-for-service for a one-year period.

Members of council, while optimistic about the possibility for an arrangement, raised some concerns the village has.

Mayor Leslie Baird brought up the matter of the current tourism centre. Under the arrangement with CVEDS, as it was a separate society, the village did receive some income for use of the space, but this would change with the new body, as it is local government.

“We no longer receive tax money for the building,” Baird said.

Lisa Kilpatrick, the region’s economic recovery and community resilience co-ordinator, responded that the upside is that the service’s tax requisition for tourism would be lower because it would not require the funds to pay the taxes on the property.

The centre, itself, is one of the focal points for the new body, she added, as it is looking for additional ways to use the facility and perhaps generate revenue.

Another major initiative is to look at ways for the region to expand the program for the Municipal and Regional District Tax (MRDT) — in other words, the hotel tax. At present, it only operates for Courtenay, but the hope for the region is to expand this program to generate more revenue from the accommodations industry, including the types of operations that would charge the tax, especially online short-term rental accommodations.

Cumberland has no hotel currently, and as members of council pointed out, would not benefit if the MRDT program is limited to hotels.

Kilpatrick responded that their hope is to broaden the kinds of businesses that can collect the revenue, which can be used for initiatives such as affordable housing or on destination marketing to further promote the region.

“If there’s not a standing hotel, there’s certainly bed-and-breakfasts, there’s the online accommodators,” she said. “It allows us to open up the conversation.”

Council was not making a decision at the committee meeting, but members of council were pleased with the direction of the new relationship with the region, particularly when taking into account the village’s concerns and priorities.

“As far as I can see, this has a lot to offer for Cumberland,” Coun. Gwyn Sproule said.



mike.chouinard@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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