The Best Western PLUS Barclay Hotel. (AV NEWS FILE PHOTO)

The Best Western PLUS Barclay Hotel. (AV NEWS FILE PHOTO)

Alberni Valley Tourism changes mind about B.C. tourism tax, will apply to collect it

Hoteliers in Port Alberni reach majority to bring back MRDT after dumping it in 2012

Port Alberni hotels are one step closer to collecting a tax from travellers.

Alberni Valley Tourism is planning to submit an application for the Municipal and Regional District Tax program (MRDT). This would allow local accommodations to collect a tax from visitors to the community. The tax will be collected by the not-for-profit Alberni Valley Tourism, then used for marketing and promotion of the community.

The MRDT is a visitor-funded provincial tax program that was established in the 1980s. Port Alberni is one of the few municipalities in the province that does not leverage the tax. If established, visitors to the Alberni Valley will have to pay a two percent tax on room rates at hotels and Airbnb accommodations.

Peter Mugleston, chairman and president of Alberni Valley Tourism, told Port Alberni city council during a meeting on Monday, May 9 that 71 percent of hoteliers in Port Alberni are in favour of collecting the tax. This exceeds the provincial requirement of 51 percent. Two out of three Sproat Lake properties are also in favour.

“Although we have some properties still sitting on the fence, we’ve achieved a majority of accommodation providers,” said Mugleston.

In order to apply for MRDT, Alberni Valley Tourism must get approval from municipalities and regional districts in the accommodation area. Both Port Alberni city council and the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District board voted to provide letters of support.

Prior to 2012, Port Alberni did collect the hotel tax. Beaver Creek director John McNabb was on the ACRD board back when the tax was rescinded.

READ MORE: Port Alberni considers implementing ‘hotel tax’ for travellers

“What’s changed?” he wanted to know during the most recent board meeting on May 11.

Mugleston admitted that he was one of the hoteliers who voted against MRDT previously. At the time, he said, hoteliers didn’t like how their money was being spent.

“It got a little messy,” he said.

Since then, Alberni Valley Tourism has partnered with the City of Port Alberni and the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce on the common goal of promoting and marketing the Alberni Valley.

The MRDT, said chamber CEO Bill Collette, “is objective No. 1 for us.”

Over the past few years, some Port Alberni hotels have been collecting a two percent tax on a voluntary basis, with 100 percent of the funds going towards marketing.

“We are still actively marketing the area, and have funds to do so until the MRDT funds start rolling in,” said Mugleston.

But the MRDT will require all hotels with more than four rooms—as well as all Airbnb accommodations—to collect the tax.

Port Alberni’s economic development manager Pat Deakin said the city is anticipating $163,000 in revenue for the first year. The majority of this will go towards marketing ($65,000), as well as operations and engagement ($63,000).

“This additional funding will allow us to up our game,” said Deakin.

Port Alberni city councillors expressed their support for the program on May 9.

“When money does start coming in, we are going to have a substantial advertising budget in order to promote all the wonderful things that this community has to offer to our visitors,” said Coun. Debbie Haggard. “I think we could finally start to become a destination point, not just a drive-thru.”

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