Hotel fee allows association to ‘evolve’
Merritt hoteliers have started collecting a two per cent Destination Marketing Fee in place of the government administered accommodation tax, which was collected locally since 2004.
While the previous system provided crucial funding for tourism marketing — collecting nearly $80,000 in 2011— a press release from the Merritt Hotel Association (MHA) says the group is embracing the opportunity to evolve.
Following the lead of other destination marketing organizations across British Columbia such as those in Vancouver and Victoria, the Merritt accommodation sector has formed a not-for-profit society to collect the opt-in fee and ensure continued funding for tourism marketing.
The fee will be collected in the same way as before and submitted to an accountant in trust instead of the government, MHA second vice president Melvina White said, adding that the newly formed Merritt and the Nicola Valley Destination Marketing Society will determine where the funds will go.
“It’s a destination marketing group that is going to benefit the whole community,” she said. “We want to have everyone involved and have a say in how we market the community.”
The newly formed society is made up of local hotel and motel property owners, but White said once the organization is “fine-tuned” other groups such as the Merritt and District Chamber of Commerce will be welcome to be involved.
Eleven of the 13 local hotels have opted to collect the fee that came into effect on July 1.
White said the change from a tax to the fee stemmed from the fact that the deadline to reapply for the Municipal and Regional District Hotel Room Tax had passed.
“We missed the deadline to apply for the tax and rather than let it lapse, we decided to go with the opt-in fee,” she said.
However, Merritt Economic Development Manager James Umpherson said the province was willing to work with Merritt, but the MHA failed to communicate with the City.
After a lengthy discussion at a council meeting on April 17, councillors opted to give the MHA 51 per cent of the decision making power to direct the allocation of hotel tax funds as requested in order to submit a renewal application to the province.
Fifty-one per cent of hoteliers needed to consent to collect the hotel tax for the province to consider the application.
“[The MHA] never responded as far as I know,” said Umpherson.
Though no one has approached the City about involvement yet, he said the City supports whatever is in the hoteliers’ best interest.
“There are other cities that have pursued this route and from what I understand they work fine,” he said. “The City’s position is that if they want to go that route for the hotel industry, we’re not here to create an obstacle for them.”
The MHA press release says the goal of the destination marketing society is to create effective partnerships to create a tourism model that will showcase Merritt.
“Everyone needs to come together instead of being in groups all over the place,” said White. “By coming together we can bring some tourism to Merritt.”