Mixed reaction to tax

A proposal to add a two per cent accommodation tax in the Boundary appears set to move ahead.

Support in the West Boundary is evenly split for and against the proposed room occupancy tax on the local accommodation industry.

However, according to Cindy Alblas who has been working on the project since last September, there is now a 68-per-cent buy-in from accommodators across the Boundary and the project is ready to move to the next phase.

She said that to date her focus has been on the hotels and motels, but she will be meeting with other businesses such as Deadwood Junction and the Motherlode. “I will give you a complete report on Greenwood,” she promised Greenwood council back in January, “but the report I am giving to you today is the Boundary wide report.”

She estimates between $30,000 and $40,000 in new revenue might come in from the tax. Seventy per cent of the tax would be directed to marketing the region with the purpose of increasing bed stays; the remaining 30 per cent will be used for administration.

Connie and Rainer Nisson at the Greenwood Motel are very much opposed to adding a new tax on their customers.

They told the Times that only major destinations are seeing an improvement in traffic. They question who will get to decide where the destination marketing organization (DMO) money will be spent.

Mile Zero Motel owner Bob Kaytor on the other hand sees the tax as a good thing. “The Boundary might be one of the least known areas of British Columbia,” he said. “We don’t know if we belong to the Okanagan; we don’t know if we belong to the Kootenays. We are left on our own.”

He thinks a DMO will help let the public know what features there are here in the Boundary.

He said he supports it because he doesn’t see where the local hospitality industry has a huge number of options.

He did say that a lot of his business is made up of work crews who come into the area for a short time. After that comes the travelling public and finally the tourist trade.

Said Mir, owner of the Boundary Motel in Greenwood, makes the same observation, saying that, for most people, Greenwood is not a destination. “People stop here because they are ready to find a motel along the road,” he told the Times. He said a tax like this would be good for motels where there are tourist attractions, but not so much for Greenwood.

J.P. Powar of the Evening Star Motel in Greenwood says he has no problems with the tax. He sees value in it and thinks it will attract more tourists.

A meeting has been set up in the West Boundary to move the project along to the next step. Alblas says that will be to decide how the DMO will be formed.

Voting has already taken place in the form of those accommodators in support having lent their signature to the proposal.

A meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on April 1 at the Bored Room Bistro in Midway to establish a steering committee to put together a business plan. [ed. note: Project coordinator Cindy Alblas cancelled the April 1 meeting in Midway “in hopes of bringing a stronger number of accommodators to the table.  It is my hope to honour the process that we are undertaking and to wait until we can have a higher number of accommodators  able to be present.” Plans are for another meeting date later in April.]

Once the business plan has been agreed to by the majority of accommodators, then the application will go to the province.

Revenue from the tax would fund a destination marketing organization with the goal of increasing bed stays in the shoulder season through direct marketing of the region.

Alblas has been working for the Christina Gateway Development Community Association on the project. She told local municipal councils back in January that a simple majority would be sufficient to make application.

Collection of the accommodation tax would be mandatory if approved by Victoria. According to Alblas, the Boundary is the only area in B.C. that does not charge this two per cent tax.

When told of the concerns of some motel operators, she said, “We would encourage them to come to the meeting and talk about why they feel so opposed so that we can try help them understand how we can all work together to make this a better region for all of us and create our footprint in the Boundary country.

“Something has to be done across our boundary to help make it sustainable and increase our tourism and increase our footprint so that we can all live, and grow and play here in this awesome beautiful countryside that we live in.”