A question of taxes was hardly a taxing one for Langley City council as it voted unanimously in favour of the five-year renewal of a two per cent hotel room tax at its Jan. 9 meeting.
The current agreement with the province to collect the tax on behalf of participating municipalities expires this August.
The money raised through the hotel tax benefits Tourism Langley, which now depends on the tax for 64 per cent of its funding — up from 46 per cent in 2008, when the agency was still receiving start up funds from UBCM.
The tax, which must still be approved by the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, is collected by the province on behalf of Tourism Langley and distributed through the Township and City.
In order to implement the hotel tax, which is done through the Ministry of Finance, the support of 51 per cent of hotels (representing 51 per cent of available rooms in a community) and that of the municipality is required.
However, in the City, that figure has been easily surpassed, with all of the municipality’s six hotels — with a total of 342 rooms — on board.
“One hundred per cent of hotel properties that were reachable indicated their support (for the tax),” said Alnoor Tejpar, as he and Tourism Langley executive director Deborah Kulchiski made a presentation to City council.
Councillor Dave Hall asked whether an occupancy comparison had been done between the 53 communities in B.C. which charge the two per cent tax — including both Langley City and Township — and those that don’t.
Guests want to know what a hotel’s room rates are and what that fee includes, for example, is breakfast provided, said Tejpar, who is the general manager of the Hampton Inn and Suites on the Langley Bypass, as well as the owner/manager of the Best Western Langley Inn on Glover Road, which falls within Langley City limits.
“People assume there is a tax.”
After peaking in 2007 and ’08, and then dropping off with the global economic crisis, hotel occupancy rates in Langley are once again leveling off and beginning to climb, said Tejpar, who is also a Tourism Langley board member.
Hall then asked whether the province had the power to raise the rate at which the tax is levied, or to “claw back” any portion of the revenue, if it found itself short of funds.
That could not happen without a change in provincial legislation, explained Mayor Peter Fassbender.
“Very few communities get 100 per cent of hotel support,” said Fassbender. The City has that, he noted, adding the Township is well on its way toward full support from its hoteliers as well.
“There’s one property I’m aware of (in the Township) that will not support it,” he added, in an apparent reference to the Princess and the Pea bed and breakfast, whose owner, Wally Martin, is an outspoken opponent of the tax.