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Whistler to review options for increasing hotel tax

Province announces move to increase MRDT from two to three per cent



Whistler may be interested in upping the tax on hotel rooms by a percentage point to take advantage of new rules passed by the provincial government in its 2015 budget last week.

That could mean an additional $2 million in revenues to Whistler, though it is unclear at this point how the money can be spent.

"It took us all by surprise I have to say," said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden of the budget announcement.

It's called the MRDT, or the Municipal and Regional District Tax (MRDT) on accommodation. The MRDT is a two per cent tax on hotel rooms in addition to the eight per cent PST.

The B.C. government is set to increase the maximum MRDT rate to three per cent, for an 11 per cent tax on rooms, for communities that apply.

In 2014, based on actuals to November and forecast for December, the Resort Municipality of Whistler received $3.9 million in MRDT. The 2015 budget for MRDT revenue is $4 million.

That means an extra percentage point could put Whistler's MRDT totals close to $6 million.

Last year the MRDT was used to fund RCMP overtime ($140,000), the free village shuttle ($985,000), Tourism Whistler ($645,000) and Tourism Development ($1.1 million) as well as funding a portion of a host of projects from work at Meadow Park Sports Centre to Valley Trail reconstruction.

For Stephen Webb, chair of the Whistler Hotel Association and general manager of the Hilton, the opportunity is compelling.

"We are certainly interested and generally would welcome an increase to obtain more funds," he said.

The announcement, however, came with conditions and criteria, which are not yet known.

"Without knowing all of that it's hard to say we embrace it with open arms," Webb added.

As for the increased cost on consumers — an 11 per cent tax on hotel rooms, up from the current 10 per cent tax — Webb is not concerned.

"It isn't significant," he said.

Tourism Whistler's president and CEO Barrett Fisher said there would be discussions with the board of directors and resort partners before any decisions are made.

"It's really premature to say," she said. "We just found out about this ourselves."

Though last week's announcement was a surprise, upping the MRDT to three per cent has been discussed over the years.