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Penticton  

Travel Penticton pitching city council on local 'convention bureau,' accommodation tax hike and control of the funds

Seeking hotel tax hike

Travel Penticton is hoping to sell city council on a vision for a local "convention bureau," partially funded by a proposed hike in the local hotel tax.

Travel organization hired Suzanne Denbak of Cadence Strategies to speak to council Tuesday.

She outlined their bureau vision, tapping "meetings, conferences, exhibitions and events" as the "single greatest opportunity Penticton has to grow its shoulder season visitation."

A bureau, she explained, would build awareness of Penticton as a destination, lead trade shows, track potential customers, negotiate amongst all stakeholders and be single point of contact for event and convention planners looking at the city as an option.

Travel Penticton is also looking to raise the local municipal and regional district tax (MRDT), which applies to hotels, Air BnBs and other short-term rentals province-wide, from two per cent to three per cent, as well as becoming the "designated recipient" of those funds rather than the city.

Those funds are earmarked for specific tourism-related purposes in the community, and Denbak said a portion of that "could possibly" go to the creation of the convention bureau, and some could potentially go toward the creation of affordable housing, since lack of housing is tied in to shortages in the hospitality and tourism workforce.

Denbak noted that designated recipients are subject to high scrutiny and accountability.

The tax rate raise requires approval from 51 per cent of rooms and 51 per cent of properties with more than four rooms, and Travel Penticton has already begun the signature-gathering process. They will also need council endorsement and a fleshed-out five-year strategy, all due by Sept. 1.

At the end of her 50-minute talk, Denbak asked council "if everyone is ready and on board" that they send a letter of support for Travel Penticton becoming the designated recipient, and support for the one per cent accommodation tax hike.

Council showed no eagerness to move forward.

"That was a lengthy one ... a lot of information to absorb," said Mayor John Vassilaki.

"it would be very, very difficult to give you any answers today ... there's a lot of information here we have to think about, and think what's in the best interest of our community."

None of the councillors had any questions or comments.



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