A tie-breaking vote by the chair of the Shuswap Tourism Advisory Committee put the application for a hotel tax into the hands of the City of Salmon Arm.
It was a turnaround from a Sept. 10 tourism meeting where Columbia Shuswap Regional District tourism manager Robyn Cyr provided an overview of the Municipal and Regional District Tax program, which taxes accommodation. The purpose of the tax is to assist communities to fund tourism marketing programs and projects.
At the meeting attended by representatives from Chase, Salmon Arm, Enderby, CSRD directors and tourism reps, Cyr outlined the initiatives Shuswap Tourism maintains with the current budget and what could be accomplished with more funds.
Cyr provided an estimated revenue of $301,594 from the hotel tax based on a review of accommodations in the Shuswap.
“Shuswap Tourism is asking for 50 per cent of this revenue to use towards marketing initiatives,” she said. “The additional 50 per cent would go back into the communities to support local initiatives such as local community events.”
Electoral Area C Director Paul Demenok moved that the committee support Shuswap Tourism preparing the hotel tax application in collaboration with its partners. The motion carried unanimously.
But in a Nov. 10 letter to the regional district, the City of Salmon Arm stated its intention to apply directly for the tax and endorse the Salmon Arm Economic Development Society (SAEDS) to oversee it.
The letter also endorsed SAEDS working with tourism industry stakeholders to develop a proposed five-year strategic plan.
Added as a late-agenda item for the Nov. 26 regional district meeting, the item caught several directors off-guard.
“This is somewhat in conflict with the Shuswap Tourism Committee’s plans,” said CSRD Chief Administrative Officer Charles Hamilton, who suggested the issue go to the next tourism committee meeting. This view was supported by Area E director Rhona Martin and Demenok. He suggested working together to make a joint application in order to get what the city wants but keep the tourism committee involved.
Salmon Arm Mayor Nancy Cooper told directors the city supports what the tourism committee is doing.
“I was away (when the council decision to go it alone was made). I think they felt this was the best way to get it going; there was no intention to disrespect the CSRD,” she said, adding significant money is intended to go to the tourism committee, and Economic Development manager Lana Fitt will liaise with Cyr.
“That’s what my understanding was.”
After the tie-breaking meeting of the tourism committee, Cooper said she made it clear at that Sept. 10 meeting she would have to take Cyr’s proposal to council.
“The minutes from Shuswap Tourism didn’t reflect it would have to be approved by Salmon Arm Council and they decided to go ahead with it on our own,” she said Monday. “There’s a number of reasons: we felt we could lead this, move it forward a bit quicker and it’s the city accommodators that will have to move this.”
As well, Cooper said council thought hoteliers would prefer putting the plan in the hands of the society and taking it out of local government. She added anyone is welcome to work with SAEDS.
“It will be valuable if it all goes through. It’s up to the hotels – they decide on how the money is going to be spent.”
Cooper said SAEDS will have to get together with local hoteliers to get them onboard first.
“We would hope they would support Shuswap Tourism – they have done a lot of work developing and promoting the Shuswap brand,” she said, noting Cyr and Fitt have already set up a meeting.
CSRD Area D director Rene Talbot does not paint such a rosy picture.
“They implied they would collect the tax but put some back into the tourism – whether or not they do is another thing,” he said. “And just because Salmon Arm wants to collect the tax doesn’t mean the hotels will be onside. We want to see the money going into tourism, not Salmon Arm.”
New committee member Phil McIntyre-Paul was initially concerned about rushing the process without a well-developed, inclusive business plan. He said a concerted regional effort is proving successful in attracting visitors to the Shuswap, and more resources are needed to move the strategy forward.