Tourism group wants hotel tax

A two per cent hotel room tax could generate more than $70,000 per year to help advertise local tourism, the operator of the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows visitor centre told Maple Ridge Council on Monday.

A two per cent hotel room tax could generate more than $70,000 per year to help advertise local tourism, the operator of the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows visitor centre told Maple Ridge Council on Monday.

Kristina Gervais is the executive director for Duckworth Management Group, which operates Tourism Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows. Currently, the local tourism board operates on a budget of $95,000 a year, of which only $5,000 is for marketing.

Signing on to the province’s Additional Hotel Room Tax would help local hotels and tourism-based businesses market themselves, she told council.

“The hotel tax has been kicked around in the past, but I think it needs to be revisited,” said Coun. Craig Spiers. “The bridges have made it so much easier to get to Maple Ridge … I think the hoteliers are starting to get it.

“They’ll benefit hugely from this marketing.”

In order for the tax to be passed, hotel owners representing more than half the hotel rooms in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows would have to approve the measure.

Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows and New Westminster are the only municipalities in Metro Vancouver that haven’t signed on to the tax, which is available under provincial legislation.

Seiko Huang, whose company Multi-Well Development is planning a 125-room hotel on the Haney By-pass, feels conflicted about the tax.

“It’s difficult to answer. Usually, as a businessman, you try to keep taxes low,” he said.

While he admitted tourism marketing would benefit hotel owners, he didn’t think the amount of money generated by the tax would be sufficient to properly market the local area.

“The government should have enough money [to fund tourism marketing],” he said. “They take enough tax.”

Even with his hotel development, which stands to double the number of rooms available locally, Huang said he believes there will still be unmet demand for hotels.

“We need more rooms to support tourists,” he said. “If you don’t have good hotels, you will never grow.”

New look for tourism centre

• The Pitt Meadows visitor centre is currently undergoing a “refresh and relaunch,” with a new look, more signage, and a Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows shop, showcasing local products. The visitor centre should be ready by April, said Kristina Gervais of Tourism Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.

• From February to December 2010, the centre had 3,870 visitors, the majority of which were local residents. The Tourism Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows website (www.mapleridge-pittmeadows.com) received close to 13,000 unique visitors from May to December.