New Brunswick

Potential tourism marketing levy divides industry

The New Brunswick government is considering a three-per-cent levy that would be applied to stays in campgrounds, hotels and motels as a way to raise cash for a marketing fund.

3% levy could be added to stays in campgrounds, hotels and motels

The Department of Tourism is considering a three-per-cent levy that would be charged to people staying in hotels, motels and campgrounds. (CBC)

New Brunswick tourists could soon be paying a new three-per-cent levy to stay in the province’s campgrounds, hotels and motels.

The Department of Tourism says no final decision has been made on a new levy but industry officials say the proposal would create a tourism marketing fund.

The levy has not been unveiled and it has already created a division in the tourism industry.

Campground owners say the levy is just an extra tax that will make their short season even tougher and drive campers south of the border.

Howard Heans, the owner of the Hardings Point Campground on the Kingston Peninsula, said the tax differential between New Brunswick and Maine already puts the province at a competitive disadvantage.

Howard Heans, owner of the Hardings Point Campground on the Kingston Peninsula, said a new levy could drive tourists to Maine. (CBC)

"Maine sales tax is five per cent and you're going to charge people in New Brunswick 16 per cent tax on every camping stay 30 days or less," he said.

"[So people here are] going to have to pay an additional three per cent on top of their tax" if the levy goes through.

The idea of a tourism marketing levy is not new. Saint John hotels can charge a two per cent levy and Miramichi and Bathurst have fees as well.

Kathy Weir, president of the Tourism Industry Association of New Brunswick, said her organization supports the idea of a levy.

She said it needs to be the same rate across the province.

While some in the industry fear the levy could drive tourists away from New Brunswick, Weir said the industry association  believes the levy would offer much-needed funds to help attract people to stay in the province.

"When we need to market and promote our province. This is an option, especially with so many government cutbacks," Weir said.

The tourism department did not announce a health levy in the March budget. The department’s budget was reduced to $37.6 million from $40 million last year.

The department is also reducing the amount spent on marketing, sales and visitor experience to $12.9 million from $14.5 million, according to the budget.

Tourism Minister Trevor Holder has already announced other measures to deal with the shrinking budget.

For example, provincial parks and visitor information centres will be open fewer weeks in 2013 and the provincial government is looking to find an outsider operator for The Anchorage Provincial Park on Grand Manan.