Hotel room tax would be used to promote Comox Valley tourism

Comox Valley Economic Development may get more money to boost tourism in the Comox Valley — in the form of a hotel room tax.

The Comox Valley Economic Development Society (CVEDS) may be getting some more money to boost tourism in the Comox Valley — in the form of an Additional Hotel Room Tax (AHRT).

Courtenay council unanimously passed a motion to have staff prepare a bylaw and formally apply to the Province to have a two-per-cent tax to be implemented within the City of Courtenay. If the application goes through, all hotels and motels in Courtenay would have to charge the tax by law.

All money generated by the tax would go to CVEDS to fund destination marketing programs to attract tourists to the Valley.

CVEDS executive director John Watson came before Courtenay council Monday to request support for the tax within the City of Courtenay, and he brought a handful of Courtenay hotelier representatives with so they could show their support.

The Holiday Inn Express’ Grant Smith pointed out 28 other communities around the province already have the tax in place.

“They’re using that for extra funding to put themselves up and above all the little communities like ourselves that don’t have a hotel tax, so that kind of puts us behind the eight ball — we don’t have enough money to market ourselves,” Smith said. “The benefit isn’t just for the hotel industry, it’ll be for the restaurants, pubs, gas stations, retail sector — everybody will enjoy more tourism, more tourism dollars.”

According to CVEDS business plan for the AHRT, room revenue for the Comox Valley was $15.2 million in 2008, and $14.5 million in 2009, which was the last year an actual number could be recorded because of changes due to the implementation of the HST.

With a two-per-cent tax added, an additional $304,360 could have been brought in during 2008, and another $289,000 in 2009.

CVEDS would market the Comox Valley through Lower Mainland TV marketing campaigns, online campaigns, brand enhancement, encouraging new and enhanced festivals and tracking who is already coming to the region to determine who best to market to.

Watson confirmed the money would not be used toward the Visitor Centre.

Coun. Ronna-Rae Leonard asked why CVEDS didn’t approach the Comox Valley Regional District so the tax could be implemented throughout the entire Comox Valley.

Watson pointed out that Mount Washington already has the tax, and the for-sale Port Augusta Inn is the only hotel in Comox.

He added at least 51 per cent of the establishments in the area needed to be in favour, but also establishments in favour have to represent at least 51 per cent of total rooms in the area.

“So the Regional District, when you exclude Mount Washington, there’s one place with a lot of rooms, and it’s the Kingfisher,” said Watson. “And while they originally supported the tax, they are not now in a position to do so.”

Resort manager for Kingfisher Oceanside Resort Natasha Richardson pointed out Crown Isle Resort also chose not to come on board with the hotel tax at this time, and she outlined the Kingfisher’s reasons for not supporting the tax.

“At the moment, given the price sensitivity of vacationers combined with the decreased hotel revenues that we’re currently experiencing, we don’t feel that the current plan for the AHRT dollars will generate enough revenue to create the critical mass needed to market the Comox Valley as a destination,” she told the Record.

Smith noted he is “not fond” of the fact that the Kingfisher didn’t want to join and the market is down for hotels all over B.C., but he doesn’t believe the tax will give hotels without the tax an advantage.

“I don’t think the two per cent will give a competitive edge to — I’m hoping — to the satellite properties and I hope that they’ll see the benefits within a year or year-and-a-half and join,” he said.