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Vancouver tourism fees good for Whistler



New financial tool has been discussed by Whistler, but no decisions made

New tourism fees in Vancouver, which could raise the cost of hotel rooms and restaurant bills in the city, will have positive spin-off effects for Whistler.

The provincial government introduced legislation to allow the tourism industry to levy the fees last week. The new revenue is seen as a way to help Tourism Vancouver to market the city to the rest of the world.

"We’re looking for considerable funds to promote tourism in Vancouver and by extension up through the corridor into Whistler because many visitors who come to Vancouver make it a point of going to Whistler as well," said Paul Tilbury, deputy chair of Tourism Vancouver.

The tourism fees will be a voluntary levy put in place by the various sectors of Vancouver’s tourism industry. For example, members of the hotel sector in Vancouver could come together and decide if they want to add another tax onto hotel bills. Likewise the restaurant sector could come together and decide if they wanted to impose a nominal fee to their business licenses.

All the money that is raised, and it is expected to raise millions of dollars, will then go towards marketing Vancouver and by extension, Whistler.

"There’s absolutely synergies and positive spin offs there that if they can continue to grow tourism is will positively impact Whistler," said Barrett Fisher, president of Tourism Whistler.

"Tourism Whistler works very closely with Tourism Vancouver. We work hand in glove in many marketing and sales initiatives and we target many of the same markets, geographically as well as by segment meetings and leisure business."

She explained that skiers at the resort often package their ski holidays with pre- or post-vacation trips to the city. Likewise, large meeting groups in Vancouver often come to the resort before or after their meetings.

The legislation is known as Bill 14, the Vancouver Tourism Levy Enabling Act.

Fisher said Tourism Whistler is not looking to the province for this kind of legislation at this point, although fees like this have been part of resort-wide discussions.

"Certainly there have been discussions about looking at a levy model similar to what Tourism Vancouver is undertaking," she said.

But other revenue streams have also been looked at too she said, like maximizing the advantages of corporate partnerships.

One reason Fisher said there hasn’t been general agreement on any one revenue source is because any new financial tool must take into consideration everyone who would be affected by it, from businesses, to consumers, to the government bodies that would run the program.

"I think that’s why for now we have not agreed to any funding formula because I think at this point we’d want to consider all of the different implications," she said.

The new Vancouver tourism fees will only come into effect through a democratic process by each sector. That process has yet to be established.

Tilbury said Tourism Vancouver needs the funds now more than ever because of the opportunities currently presented to the tourism industry in British Columbia.

"The Olympics only provides opportunity," he said.

"We must still tell people why Vancouver is a great city to come to, not just for the winter Olympic/Paralympic Games but also for everything this city, community and province has to offer in the summer and the winter months."

The increased marketing funds will allow Tourism Vancouver to continue to fight for the cruise ship industry to stay based out of Vancouver rather than move south of the border to Seattle, Tillbury said.

They also want to be able to fill the new trade and convention centre which is set to open in 2008 or 2009.

"We are competing against Seattle, San Diego, San Francisco for international conventions as well as the driving guest who is travelling throughout the Unites States," he said.

"We need to give them reasons to come north of the border."