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Hotel association wants conference attraction levy
Seeks support from MLA candidates to add two per cent cost to hotel room tabs in Yellowknife

Thandie Vela
Northern News Services
Published Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Yellowknife Hotel Association is seeking MLA candidate support for the introduction of a hotel occupancy levy to be used to attract more conferences to the city.

NNSL photo/graphic

Yellowknife Hotel Association president Jenni Bruce says the association is seeking territorial government support for a hotel occupancy levy, with proceeds going toward attracting more conferences to Yellowknife. - Thandie Vela/NNSL photo

The association says all Yellowknife-area hotels are in favour of the levy, which would add a two per cent charge to hotel room tabs.

"It's just huge, the additional revenue it's going to bring in a year," hotel association president Jenni Bruce said, estimating the levy would generate up to half a million dollars per year, to be used to attract more conferences to the city.

Billed under the title 'destination market fee' in some jurisdictions, similar levies are already being applied across the country, Bruce said.

"It's a model that's being used in every major city, province, jurisdiction across Canada," she said, noting the tax ranges anywhere from five per cent to 14 per cent in other jurisdictions.

"So that we're going for two is very low," she said. "Anybody that travels has seen it on their hotel bill in southern Canada."

The association sent out questionnaires to all candidates last Thursday, asking such questions as "do you support the development of a more robust tourism industry in the Northwest Territories?"

The association has been actively working on the proposal for more than eight years, Bruce said, adding it is being pushed more aggressively now because all Yellowknife-area hotels have unanimously supported the levy.

"They feel this is one of the best ways to get larger dollars and new dollars into the system," said Yellowknife Centre candidate Robert Hawkins was the first MLA to bring the proposed levy to the legislature during the last assembly in the spring.

"A lot of the money would be coming from southern tourists, every time they come in and rent a room for the evening," Hawkins said. "It adds up very fast, and that money can do some exciting things."

All Yk hotels are willing to administer the tax at no cost, which would add between $2.50 to $4 per night to hotel tabs, and government clearance of the levy is necessary so municipalities can have wording in the legislature to consistently handle the levy, Bruce said.

While details of the program have not yet been ironed out, the city of Yellowknife would be the steward of the money and NWT Tourism would work out a plan to handle it, Bruce said.

One of the main misconceptions that drew opposition to the levy in the past is that the income would be used for capital projects, such as a convention centre, she said. However, proceeds from the levy would be used to bolster the amount of conferences coming to Yellowknife specifically through the establishment of a convention bureau consisting of one and a half employees, who will attend shows and market the city as a destination for groups to hold their conferences.

"It's basically a marketing body focused strictly on marketing the city," Bruce said. "We want to attract more people to Yellowknife."

The benchmark for the levy would be to attract an additional six meetings a year, which would generate an additional $3.5 million to the local economy annually, the association says.

The association is hoping the levy will get legislature approval by March, with the levy being applied starting in 2013.

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