Editorial: New year, same old problem with hotel tax

City and hotel association need to put differences aside for good of the community

It may be a new year, but Penticton is still dealing with the same old hotel room tax problem.

And, as the dispute inexorably heads to the courts, the only parties sure to come out further ahead than they started are the lawyers.

Both the city and the Penticton Hospitality Association lose as their attention is diverted to dealing with the dispute and more money is spent on legal proceedings. Both organizations are also likely to need to rebuild their reputations somewhat once the dispute is settled.

But the biggest losers are the residents and businesses of Penticton. Because every day this dispute lasts is another day that tourism marketing for the city is not working at its full potential.

The latest twist is a press release from the city highlighting the PHA’s refusal to  continue a series of meetings the hoteliers say were unproductive, in stark contrast to Mayor Garry Litke’s opinion they had reached an agreement in principle to resolve outstanding issues over the hotel room tax funds.

Officially, the dispute between city hall and the Penticton Hospitality Association started Oct. 31, 2013, when Litke announced the city was breaking the contract which gave the PHA control of the tourism marketing funds raised by the two per cent additional hotel room tax.

But control of those funds was a contentious issue even before the city signed that five-year contract with the PHA in 2012. You can trace the roots of it back to 2011, when city council chose to give the contract for tourism marketing to a private group rather than the chamber of commerce.

That’s two years too long for Penticton’s tourism marketing to suffer from divided goals and squabbling stakeholders. It’s time for all parties involved to put aside their differences and start working together for the good of the community.