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Tourist Operators not on board with accommodation tax

by Isabel Mosseler

Board members of the WN Chamber of Commerce knew it might be a controversial subject when they invited local lodge, camp, hotel and motel owners to a public session on the possibility of instituting a Municipal Accommodation Tax (MAT) in West Nipissing. Chamber president Joanne Vallière made it very clear at the beginning of the meeting that the session was for information purposes only, and the Chamber was not promoting the tax. “It’s just information for stakeholders,” she assured at the Monday, Feb. 24 meeting held at the Club d’Amitié in Verner.

Michael Wozny of Destination Northern Ontario was there to give an overview of how the tax works in other jurisdictions, with a tax charged to those renting in the area, and the funds collected earmarked for promoting and enhancing the tourism industry. About a dozen local tourism businesses, Mayor Joanne Savage, several town councillors, and Chamber board members were on hand to hear the presentation. Any decision on implementing a MAT would have to be made by WN Council.

Even though the president made it clear the Chamber was not advocating for the extra 4% levy on tourist accommodations, board director Marla Tremblay was eager to share the potential positive aspects of the Municipal Accommodation Tax. The tourist operators on hand, however, displayed considerable opposition to the idea that tourism businesses in the area be burdened with an extra tax.

Wozny discussed how his association, Destination Northern Ontario, works towards tourism promotion and product development for all of Northern Ontario. Part of the effort is “a tourism strategy where we are all pulling in the same direction.” He added that the Municipal Accommodation Tax is largely misunderstood as another municipal tax when it is, in fact, a surcharge applied on accommodation invoices that the visitor pays. The Municipal Accommodation Tax is collected by the business owner from the guest and remitted to the municipality. The municipality has to spend the funds on the goals and objectives of the tourism operators by disbursing the funds to a legitimate tourism entity.

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