June 14, 2018 1:00 pm

Visitors to Barrie could see additional hotel tax implemented soon

Outside entrance to Barrie City Hall.

Nick Westoll / File / Global News

Barrie city council will vote this Monday on whether to implement the Municipal Accomodation Tax (MAT), a four per cent fee that would be tacked onto visitor’s hotel bills beginning in January.

Tourism Barrie is currently seeking a three-year contract with the city to impose the new tax. The hope is that the additional funds would be used to enhance tourism within the city.

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Several cities in Ontario have already implemented the tax: Toronto, Kingston, Ottawa and Thunder Bay, among them.

According to research conducted by Barrie city staff, while the program is relatively new, there has been no indication that the added tax has hurt tourism or hotel business in the municipalities where it is being implemented. Overall, the study found that the tax has been well received in the municipalities.

“We are falling in line with and perusing a model that is being tested and well received, and that will serve our residents exceptionally well,” Coun. Arif Khan said at city council on Monday.

Barrie’s Mayor Jeff Lehman says the city received overwhelming support for the tax from the tourism and hotel industries during the consultation process.

“It’s somewhat unusual to have a new tax proposed that the industry actually is wholeheartedly in support of. But, clearly, the hotel industry is telling us that this is going to help them grow their business because the funds will be spent growing the tourism industry locally, and they don’t presumably see a negative impact on their businesses,” he said.

If implemented, Tourism Barrie would receive 50 per cent of the revenue from the MAT to be used for marketing purposes. The city’s portion of the MAT revenue will be put into a Tourism Reserve Fund, to be used for new capital assets, studies, products or marketing campaigns to support tourism.

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Additionally, a tourism working group would be established to study and review the program each year of the contract. The group would include two members of Barrie city council, one member from the Downtown BIA, two representatives from the Barrie Hotel Association, two members from Tourism Barrie and a representative from the Sports Events/Facilities Advisory Committee.

City councillors unanimously approved the initial proposal at the June 11 general committee meeting, and both Coun. Khan and Coun. Barry Ward put their names forward to be members of the working group.

“What we have here is an opportunity to enhance and to create an opportunity for Tourism Barrie and the tourism sector to receive additional funds that otherwise we would be going to our taxpayer for. And we don’t have to in this particular case. It is important that everybody understands and accepts that truly this funding mechanism will be funded by those who are travelling and visiting, tourists in Barrie, not by our property owners, not by the ratepayer in Barrie, but the beneficiaries will be the residents in Barrie,” Coun. Khan said.

The motion will now go before council for ratification June 18. If city council approves the proposal, the tax would be implemented starting Jan. 1 2019.

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