Tourism Operators Fight Proposal For New Tax

County of Renfrew Buildiing

Some of Renfrew County's tourism operators are pushing back against a campaign to bring in a so-called "hotel tax" locally.

A group of hotel operators is upset the Ottawa Valley Tourism Association, which is an arm of the County of Renfrew, is promoting the idea of a 4 per cent Municipal Accommodation Tax (MAT) to municpalities, which can decide on their own whether to adopt one.  

Under the local proposal, municipalities would keep half the revenue from the tax, but the OVTA is suggesting the other half to go the tourism agency.

The concerned group includes Jim Hemlin of Calabogie Peaks. He and about 10 other business operators surrendered their OVTA memberships at the County headquarters on Friday morning, in protest.

"Here in Greater Madawaska, or Renfrew County, we're so diverse and so spread out, that the tourism piece of it doesn't really have an impact on us.  We're funding a program that we don't think is going to give us any benefit whatsoever", Hemlin told Pure Country 96.7.

Hemlin says there hasn't been enough research, consultation, or proven data about the impact or the benefits of the tax, and they also aren't convinced that their membership in the OVTA is boosting their business.

He adds they believe such a tax could harm area businesses, which are already trying to stay competitive by keeping rates as low as possible for their customers.

MATs are already in place in other locations including Ottawa, where they most often show up as an extra charge on a guest's hotel bill.

County Response

For its part, the County says there's been an extensive process to bring the OVTA to its position in favour of the tax, which it says included consultation with tourism operators.

Still, Chief Administrative Officer Paul Moreau says he met with the concerned group on Friday morning and listened to their position.

"We understand their concerns and we hope to rebuild that relationship", Moreau told Pure Country 96.7.

"What I heard from them is that they're not unhappy with the County itself, but more the relationship with the OVTA", he added.

"They saw the need to work to rebuild that relationship, I believe, if that's possible".

Moreau adds that the Municipal Accommodation Tax is now a provincial government focus, that the OVTA is communicating to local municipalities, which still have the ability to approve or decline the tax.

The County is working on an opportunity to have the concerned group of hoteliers address a committee of County Council sometime in the near future.