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‘Best thing we ever did:’ Salmon Arm councillor thrilled with hotel tax program

Municipal & Regional District Tax Program is an up-to 3 per cent tax on short-term accommodation
Salmon Arm Economic Development Society’s Lana Fitt and Caitlin Thompson address Salmon Arm council regarding the MRDT (Municipal Regional District Tax) program in November 2022. Their 2022 MRDT Annual Performance Report was discussed at council’s May 23, 2023 meeting. (Observer file photo)

Salmon Arm Councillor Kevin Flynn holds the Municipal & Regional District Tax (or ‘hotel tax’) program in high esteem.

“The work that’s been done is awesome. Best thing we ever did was getting MRDT in, second best thing we ever did was letting EDS (Salmon Arm Economic Development Society) set up the management of it. It’s all positive in my mind.”

The 2022 MRDT Annual Performance Report provided to council by SAEDS’ Lana Fitt and Caitlin Thompson showed that since 2017, except for a dip in 2020, the revenue collected has steadily climbed.

With a total of $323,479 collected in 2022, last year saw Salmon Arm’s highest annual overnight stay revenue in the history of its MRDT collecting, realizing a 20 per cent increase over 2021 figures.

The City of Salmon Arm was approved by the province to begin collecting the two per cent MRDT on June 1, 2017. It disburses 100 per cent of MRDT funds received monthly to SAEDS. An MRDT committee of SAEDS has the mandate to direct and oversee all aspects of the program, with the support of the Economic Development manager, who is Lana Fitt.

The MRDT committee is made up of accommodators, broader tourism stakeholders and representatives of organizations such as Shuswap Tourism, Shuswap Trail Alliance, Salmon Arm Folk Music Society, RJ Haney Heritage Museum, Salmon Arm Visitor Centre and others.

Highlights listed from the past year included:

• event support where 24 events from March through to November 2022 received various categories of support, and the bid to host the 2024 55+ BC Games was successful;

• visitor support services such as installation of 23 wayfinding signs, and planning for the four downtown information pillars, three new city entrance signs, as well as three static and one mobile information kiosks;

• visitor marketing such as a city tear sheet map along with numerous digital marketing campaigns promoting shoulder- and off-season visitor attractions; and

• trail support where MRDT revenue supported the Shuswap Trail Alliance in the planning, marketing and signage for a number of area trails.

Mayor Alan Harrison pointed to the revenue graph in the MRDT report.

“In general, I’d like to commend EDS for their management of the MRDT tax,” he said, making particular note of the collaboration that is taking place between EDS, Downtown Salmon Arm, Shuswap Tourism and city tourism agencies.

The funds collected help attract tourists during the shoulder seasons, he noted.

Harrison also said it’s important that the MRDT committee, composed of accommodators and members of tourist-driven businesses, is making the decisions on where revenue should be spent.

He also referred to the visitor analysis, where, from Jan. 1 to April 30, 2022, 81.6 per cent of visitors to the geo-coded Salmon Arm areas were from B.C., 14.2 per cent from Alberta, two per cent from Ontario and one per cent from Saskatchewan.

“Those people who come and visit us from Alberta are extremely important. I really appreciate our residents making them feel welcome, and our businesses,” Harrison emphasized.

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Martha Wickett

About the Author: Martha Wickett

came to Salmon Arm in May of 2004 to work at the Observer. I was looking for a change from the hustle and bustle of the Lower Mainland, where I had spent more than a decade working in community newspapers.
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