Once again, how tourism is handled in the City of Penticton has undergone some changes, with the city handing full control of the hotel room tax over to the Penticton Hospitality Association.
In a closed meeting on May 18, city council endorsed an agreement with the PHA to renew the two per cent tax, allowing the renewal application to move on for approval by the provincial government.
“This agreement gives the Penticton Hospitality Association complete control over HRT funds, which they requested,” said mayor Dan Ashton. “The accommodations industry is a key stakeholder when it comes to successful tourism and the city is happy to work alongside this sector to promote our community.”
The important thing, Ashton said, was to get the renewal application in for government approval. The current agreement runs out on June 30, and the new agreement with the PHA will run for five years if approved by the province.
It’s the latest event in a roller coaster of ups and downs tourism marketing has been taking since late last year, when city council voted to strip the contract for tourism marketing and visitor services from the Chamber of Commerce and award it to a private group. That deal failed in February, and by March, council was trumpeting that it had worked out a solution with stakeholders, which would see the services handled by Penticton & Wine Country Tourism, which would be overseen by an 11-member board. That board was also to manage both the HRT funds — worth between $400,000 and $450,000 annually — as well as the city’s contribution, reported at the time to be $324,080.
That same announcement reported that the new board was to be weighted in favour of the PHA, with six members appointed from their ranks and five from other areas of Penticton’s tourism sector.
It also laid out plans to have the HRT renewal application submitted by the first week of April.
According to Ashton, “that didn’t transpire,” and the city and the PHA continued working towards a renewal agreement. Penticton & Wine Country Tourism will still handle tourist services, but now the PHA holds ultimate control over the HRT portion of their funding.
“Both the city and the Penticton Hospitality Association have worked tirelessly to draft a HRT renewal agreement. We are pleased that marketing for our area will continue,” said mayor Ashton. The agreement outlines that the PHA will have control over the HRT funds as permitted under provincial legislation called the Hotel Room Tax Act. Council will be permitted to review the budget for HRT funds.
“The Penticton Hospitality Association is pleased that the HRT renewal application is moving forward,” said Trinka Pontes, Penticton Hospitality Association chair. “This allows our members to focus on the coming tourist season and keep the momentum going with marketing aimed at bringing visitors to Penticton in the future.”