Tourism industry continues push for 3% hotel levy
Tourism Industry Association of N.B. says government missed out on $6M it could have used for marketing
New Brunswick is missing out on boosting the revenue it makes from tourists visiting the region by refusing to bring in a province-wide levy on hotel rooms, according to the Tourism Industry Association.
Kathy Weir, president of the tourism association, petitioned the government to legislate a provincial levy on room stays.
The industry group's request was turned down in the spring, with the provincial government citing the recent HST hike as the main reason.
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Weir said her organization estimates a levy could have collected more than $6 million in 2015 which could have gone into marketing.
With this busier summer, Weir said, New Brunswick has lost out on even more money that could have gone into promoting the province to tourists.
"It's money being left on the table that could help us grow our business and help us hire more people," said Weir.
Former tourism minister Bill Fraser said in March 2015 that he was studying the request for a three per cent levy on hotel rooms.
This is the same request that the Tourism Industry Association of New Brunswick made to each of the political parties in the 2014 provincial election. The Progressive Conservatives had promised to set up the levy.
Levy would be a 'rising tide'
"It gives smaller groups that wouldn't have the population density or the hotel density, in other cities to be able to participate. But again, with clear rules and regulations on what the investment is for," she said.
Six years ago, the city of Saint John threw in $1 million and the hotels voluntarily collected a three per cent levy on room stays, which this year almost doubled the fund.
They created Discover Saint John, a destination marketing organization, which Clarke now oversees.
She answers to a board of directors who all want to see a bang for their buck. And they're seeing it.
Clarke said there has been slow but steady growth.
Armed with an almost $2-million budget for marketing, she said Saint John has been able to capitalize on the exchange rate that is bringing in Americans and keeping Canadians at home.
"I attribute, I would say, all of it to the levy. The capacity to be able to invest in a beautiful marketing campaign," said Clarke.
"We could only do that if we could afford to do it. So we're making very targeted investments."
The government has said that it won't consider a provincial levy during the remainder of its mandate.