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Sooke advances plans for tourist tax to boost local economy

District applies for MRDT program despite opposition from some tourism operators
The Prestige Oceanfront Resort will be among the tourist accommodations facing a hotel tax proposed by the District of Sooke. (Kevin Laird/Black Press Media)

Hotels and bed-and-breakfasts in the Sooke region are one step closer to imposing a new tax on tourists.

The District of Sooke will apply for the Municipal and Regional District Tax (MRDT) program, which will fund local tourism marketing efforts.

However, the proposal has faced opposition from some tourism operators who claim that the additional tax will be burdensome and potentially negatively impact the local tourism industry.

The MRDT, established in the 1980s, is a provincial tax program funded by visitors. If implemented, a two to three per cent tax will be added to room rates at hotels and other accommodations from Metchosin to Port Renfrew. Sooke is one of the few municipalities in the province not leveraging this tax.

Gail Scott, economic development officer for the District of Sooke, cited a draft report, "Juan de Fuca Corridor: Community First, Regenerative Tourism Plan," as a catalyst for renewing the push for the hotel tax.

“The report has provided a new and vibrant path forward, allowing for continuous, responsible tourism management through relationship building with neighbouring communities and beyond,” Scott said.

The report outlines how tourism can boost the economic and social development of the Juan de Fuca corridor without compromising its cultural heritage.

For the MRDT to be implemented, the Sooke to Port Renfrew Tourist Association needs approval from local municipalities and the Capital Regional District. The tax will apply to all fixed-roof, short-term rental properties, though only properties with four or more rooms can vote on the tax. Exceptions include properties on Indigenous lands and long-term rentals of about 25 days.

Coun. Kevin Pearson noted that discussions on a hotel tax have been ongoing for the past decade. “It does feel like we’re making progress. For the first time, I feel there is some shake in the clay,” he said.

The MRDT process will involve several phases of community and industry engagement. 4VI, formerly Tourism Vancouver Island, will lead this work. Initial steps include tourism system planning meetings, interviews, and a report. Subsequent phases will involve background research, stakeholder workshops, strategic planning, and final approval of a five-year business plan.

– With a report from Rick Stiebel

Kevin Laird

About the Author: Kevin Laird

It's my passion to contribute to the well-being of the community by connecting people through the power of reliable news and storytelling.
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