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Rebate program crucial to tourism
This letter was addressed to MP Blair Wilson. A copy was
forwarded to Pique.
RE: Opposition to the Cancellation of the GST/HST Visitor
We are writing on behalf of Tourism Whistler’s 7,000 members, which represent businesses and property owners in Whistler, with respect to our concern surrounding the pending decision to eliminate the GST/HST exemption for travellers.
We would like to draw your attention to this matter and add our voice to the opposition to this move, which will have a significant impact on Canada’s leisure, group and convention travel sector. Given our focus and reliance on tourism in Whistler and the Sea to Sky corridor, and Whistler’s contribution of approximately $1 billion (more than 10 per cent of British Columbia’s tourism revenues), any barrier to travel to Canada is critical for our region.
There are several important factors to point out:
• Tourism is an export industry — a third of Canadian tourism revenues derive from spending by international visitors — and must be treated like all other export industries, which are exempt from value-added taxes like the Goods and Services Tax and the Harmonized Sales Tax.
• The GST/HST Visitor Rebate Program, although modest by international standards, contributes to Canada’s competitiveness as a destination. All other countries we compete with provide rebate programs to visitors, and removing the GST Rebate Program will inflate our pricing in foreign markets by 6 per cent.
• The federal government acknowledges the many difficulties confronting the tourism industry and yet, when considering the GST/HST Visitor Rebate Program, did not consult with stakeholders.
• The government is underestimating the unique impact this measure will have on convention business because the focus has been on the individual, discretionary aspect of the rebate program, which we understand had been estimated at only 3 per cent. In the convention industry this is much higher — likely close to 100 per cent — as this is very much used as a sales incentive in what is already a highly competitive international sector. More than 30 per cent of room nights sold in Whistler are attributed to group business so you can see the potential impacts.