Penticton and Wine Country Tourism is proposing a new across-the-board business licence levy and an increase to the hotel tax to help attract and pay for events in the tourism industry’s shoulder season.
Currently, visitors to Penticton pay a two-per-cent additional hotel room tax used to externally market the city to leisure travellers. The new proposal would increase that tax to three per cent, with the extra percentage point earmarked to specifically attract meetings, conventions, sporting events and new festivals during the slower times of the year between September and June.
If adopted by the city, the new licence levy, which Penticton Tourism is describing as “modest” without providing an actual number, would apply to all businesses throughout the city.
Last year, organizers of the annual Subaru Ironman Canada Triathlon — not officially in the shoulder season, the race is held on the last weekend in August — had to scramble to come up with $30,000 (with graduated increases in the coming years) after the event’s new ownership reorganized its funding structure. A deal was eventually reached that the city would back the race as long as the community, businesses and the tourism sector came up with the extra money.
According to Penticton Tourism marketing manager Jessie Campbell, the new investment model was created after Penticton council asked the chamber of commerce to look for ways to assist with event funding.
Campbell said when consulting with businesses in the tourism sector, many stressed the need for increased shoulder season revenues.
“What we’ve noticed over the years is that outside the summer months, individual events such as tournaments or large city-wide conferences have the most impact in our economy,” she said.
Penticton Tourism, Campbell said, underwent best practices research in other jurisdictions in order to see what worked elsewhere to increase tourism numbers in the shoulder season.
“We searched hard for a way to level the playing field when it comes to investing in Penticton’s tourism economy,” said Campbell, asserting that tourism directly or indirectly impacts almost every business in the city.
The proposed new strategy was presented to more than 25 accommodators and tourism industry representatives last week at a Penticton Hospitality Association meeting.
According to Campbell, the new model was supported by those in attendance.
“We were so pleased with the turnout … and the feedback we received from accommodators,” said Campbell. “These have been tough economic times. We (were) excited to announce to the tourism community a solution to help with increasing room bookings, get more people into their shops and restaurants and generally support an increase in the economic impact of tourism throughout the city.”
The new model will now be workshopped with Penticton council.
“I have attended a couple meetings for it and they are bringing it forward, but it is a process,” said Mayor Dan Ashton. “It will not happen overnight.”
Ashton said there have been opportunities in the past that the city could have pursued if such a funding structure had been in place.
“The more people that we get coming here, especially for events, the better for everyone,” said Ashton, suggesting that the city should also consider approaching the regional district’s Areas E and D for money. “A rising tide lifts all boats, and it will be a benefit to everybody in the community to have a busy community.
“In my opinion this is a very good proposal that is coming forward, but it will take some discussion around the council table in regards to business licences and whether it should be broad-based.”