Visitors tapped to help pay for tourism initiatives

NANAIMO – Local hospitality association wants to charge a two-per cent accommodation tax to help pay for tourism attractions.

Nanaimo visitors could soon pay for tourist attractions in the Harbour City.

The Nanaimo Hospitality Association, with the support of the City of Nanaimo and Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation, is looking to add a new two-per cent accommodation tax to hotel bills. The move is aimed at creating a new pot of money to pay for and market tourism attractions in the Harbour City, from multi-day festivals to a new interpretive and cultural centre on Newcastle Island.

This city wouldn’t be the first to see the charge levied. According to the province, 47 B.C. municipalities and regional districts are collecting the two-per cent Municipal and Regional District Tax to help bolster tourism.

Dan Brady, chairman for the Nanaimo Hospitality Association, says Nanaimo seems to be one of the few municipalities without the tax, but that it would be a positive step and a way to create tourism attraction opportunities. He also said 80 per cent of hotel operators now support ringing up the new charge, which is expected to pull in $375,000 to $406,000 in the first fiscal year and lead to more hotel stays.

The money would be collected by the City of Nanaimo, which has to apply to the province to levy the tax, create a new bylaw and commit to funding the Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation’s tourism arm at $570,000 a year. The tax is meant to promote tourism on top of what municipalities already do, so to get the two per cent, Nanaimo must continue to fund Tourism Nanaimo, according to a city report.

How to spend the money will be decided by the hospitality association, which will work with the economic development corporation to achieve its tourism goals.

“One of the things identified [in Tourism Nanaimo’s strategic plan] is … developing the destination, so that’s where accommodators are prepared to step in and at least help fund that,” Brady said, adding visitors will likely be OK with the extra charge because they pay it in other B.C. communities.

The accommodation tax has been floated among politicians and hospitality members since 2009.

The City of Nanaimo has now prepared a business plan and an application for the province and Nanaimo city council members were to consider a new bylaw during an open meeting after press time Monday.

With the help of the new tax, the city’s business plan estimates total funding for local tourism initiatives will increase from $1.25 million in 2014 to $1.3 million by 2018. Every five years, the business plan, including how to spend the money, will be reviewed, according to Brady, who said the need now is for community champions of tourist initiatives.

Snuneymuxw Chief John Wesley was unavailable for comment to discuss plans for Newcastle Island.