The Penticton Visitor Centre, where Travel Penticton has their offices. (Google Streetview)

The Penticton Visitor Centre, where Travel Penticton has their offices. (Google Streetview)

City to keep hold on Travel Penticton’s pocket strings

Council refused to give full financial control over funds from hotel taxes to the tourism board

Despite having support from Penticton’s hotels, city council will not be handing over tax revenues from short-term stays to Travel Penticton.

Travel Penticton wanted to be designated the direct recipient of the funds, as part of their plan to ask the province for permission to increase the municipal and regional district tax rate (MRDT) on short-term stays.

Council voted 6-1 to reject that proposal, after multiple presentations over two different council sessions. Coun. Judy Sentes was the only member of council to vote in support of Travel Penticton’s request.

During their Aug. 17 meeting, council voted to keep their control over the distribution of the funding.

Travel Penticton also wanted an increase to the from two per cent to three, which council was supportive of.

However, due to council’s decision, Travel Penticton will have to go back to their application and gather all of the signatures and letters of support from the hoteliers all over again.

Councillors expressed their concern over the history of Travel Penticton, as well as what they felt was an inherent threat in their description of how some of those signators may be unwilling to back the city being the recipient and increasing the taxes.

READ MORE: Travel Penticton seeks to grow through increased hotel tax

Coun. Frank Regehr also noted how in his conversations that Travel Penticton had shared fears of being unable to plan ahead with confidence, or that they might not possibly have funds flow to them.

“Earlier we heard the chair of the board that she didn’t want to discuss anything from the past, but when I hear a threat that if we don’t go along with what they want that there will be a chance that the accommodators will not go for the three per cent, or anything at all, when it comes to threats that puts the hair up on my back and I’m going to say no, darn it, you’re not going to have your way just because you’re threatened with something that hasn’t happened in the past three years with this city council,” said Mayor John Vassilaki.

Separately, the proposed convention bureau will be going forward regardless, using their existing funds.

City staff’s recommendation was to approve the increase to three per cent, deny the request for Travel Penticton to be made the designated recipient and for incoming funds from online bookings to be directed to fund affordable housing.

According to city general manager of community services Anthony Haddad, only eight of 40 municipalities in the province have their tourism board as the designated recipient of MRDT funds, the closest of which is Osoyoos.

Most of the others that have a different organization handle the funds are regional districts, who lack the experience or ability to use the funds.

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