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Tree huggers

When the levy breaks
New Brunswick tourism industry continues to carry the torch for a legislated hotel room levy

It’s not often a business sector wants to tax itself. New Brunswick tourism operators are the exception.

The Tourism Industry Association of New Brunswick continues to lobby its provincial government to introduce a province-wide three per cent levy on hotel rooms. The industry’s request was turned down by the government in the spring. At the time the Liberal government said it didn’t want to put in another tax after increasing the provincial HST to 15 per cent from 13 per cent.

Kathy Weir, the Association’s president (she also runs Broadleaf Guest Ranch, located 45 minutes south of Moncton), says the government is missing an opportunity to help the industry. “That three per cent represents around $6 million per year and could be turned into marketing initiatives,” Weir says. “People are saying they want it. We need to put this in place.”

There are already five jurisdictions in New Brunswick where voluntary hotel room levies are in place. But Weir says having levies in some parts of the province and not in others confuses visitors. Enforcement is also difficult. Some operators where there are voluntary levies opt not to charge it.

Weir believes a legislated levy would create a level playing field across the province for operators. What’s more, the revenue would go back to the regions where it was generated, so each area would get their fair share and be able to spend the money on their own initiatives.

Despite being rebuffed by the government, Weir says the Association will continue to push for the levy. She says the tourism industry already generates over $690 million annually for the New Brunswick economy, and the revenue from a hotel room levy could lead to more growth. “Just because they said no doesn’t mean no. It just means no to this model and approach,” Weir says.

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