Crowsnest council forced to put hotel tax to bed

·2 min read

You can do a lot with an extra $300,000 in your bank account.

Paying for additional marketing highlighting tourist opportunities in Crowsnest Pass was how council hoped to use a tourism levy, which was estimated would bring in $200,000 to $300,000 annual income.

The three per cent tax would have applied to all hotels and accommodation services in the municipality. By investing the revenue in advertising, council hoped the additional exposure to tourists would increase the number of visitors staying in the area, ultimately increasing business for the hospitality industry.

A review of the Municipal Government Act, however, short-sheeted council’s plans.

Despite an earlier consulting presentation made by the Southern Canadian Rockies Destination Marketing Organization Strategy, a review of the Municipal Government Act revealed council did not have the authority to impose a tourism levy. According to the legislation, only the provincial government can enforce such a tax.

“This one really bothers me,” said Coun. Dean Ward. “When we had the fellow from the DMO, he told us the only way to make this work is to make it mandatory for everybody to participate. Well now we find out we can’t make it mandatory.”

The miscommunication, added Coun. Doreen Glavin, would result in a hit to the 2021 budget.

“We were kind of relying on being able to do this,” she said.

An alternative arrangement to the levy, called a destination marketing fee, could hypothetically be implemented by the hospitality businesses themselves. Individual businesses could agree amongst themselves to collect funds from guests that would then be put towards a joint marketing program.

Such an arrangement, however, would be beyond the municipality’s control as the designated DMO would be a local tourist organization that would oversee the collection and dispersal of the DMF.

The inability to enforce a levy, Coun. Ward said, meant council’s involvement would take too much time in convincing businesses to participate.

“Somebody else needs to do that, other than council or administration,” he said. “Especially now without the option of making it mandatory — it’s not going to work.”

The news was passed along by administration to the MD and Town of Pincher Creek, as those municipalities were also part of the initial levy presentation.

The next regular Crowsnest Pass council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 23, at 7 p.m. at the MDM Community Centre. Agenda packages are available online prior to the meeting at https://bit.ly/CNPagenda.

Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze