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Resort communities want more hotel tax

Whistler not expecting a decision on proposed financial tools before the fall

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ÒWe have to go after these financial tools more aggressively,Ó he said.

Even O'Reilly expressed his frustration the following day, pointing to a recent provincial decision to reduce taxes for people in the film industry as Whistler still fights for financial tools. It's all the more frustrating, he said, in these challenging economic times for the resort community when hotel revenues are down over previous years. Only three years ago Whistler collected $4 million in hotel tax instead of this year's $3.4 million.

ÒWe know in our own community that we're not at a healthy occupancy level,Ó he said. ÒWe're hovering around 50 (per cent). We'd like to get it back into the mid-60s to low-70s, (which) would be a very sustainable, healthy place for the resort community. And so, we need to spend money to do that. It'd be nice if we didn't have to go to the very people that are struggling (Whistler taxpayers) but take some of that revenue that's going to the province and reinvest it.Ó

Traditionally Whistler's hotel tax is used to fund tourism related initiatives, such as parks, money for Tourism Whistler and the free village shuttle. But the resort municipality wants to be able to do more with its financial tools.

The community has targeted a number of key initiatives through the Comprehensive Sustainability Plan process, now called Whistler 2020, which will make the community successful and sustainable in the years to come.

ÒJust lookÉ at Whistler 2020,Ó said O'Reilly. ÒWe have a huge number of agendas, everything from housing to trying to build an airport. There's a lot of stuff that's been suggested that would help make the community more successfulÉ So I think that we can articulate that we have lots of great initiatives, that probably don't have funding at this point in time, that these funds could be utilized for.Ó

O'Reilly said the proposal before the government may have more teeth now that a number of other resort communities are working together and asking for the same thing.

ÒWe've always gone to Victoria on our own,Ó he said. ÒWe now have the collaborative. We have the small emerging communities recognizing this is probably good for them in the long run, which makes it easier from a political point of view.Ó