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Tourism officials welcome change to provincial hotel levy

"Liquidity is important during this pandemic and this will certainly assist many hoteliers."
Hotels and lodging providers in Alberta charge a four per cent tax on room nights that is collected by the province. The government announced in May that hotels may keep those fees from March 1 to the end of the year. JORDAN SMALL RMO PHOTO

BOW VALLEY – Local tourism officials welcome the provincial government's move to support hotels and other lodging providers by allowing them to keep a daily pillow tax charged on room bookings for the rest of the year.

In May, the provincial government announced that hotels and other types of accommodation that charge a tourism levy on hotel room nights can use those funds as additional support due to the economic crisis the industry is facing as a result of COVID-19.

Trevor Long, general manager of Rimrock Resort Hotel and president of Banff Lake Louise Hospitality Association, said any relief provided by the government is welcomed by the tourism industry, noting that hoteliers in Banff National Park are appreciative that the four per cent tourism levy is being redirected back into the businesses.

"Liquidity is important during this pandemic and this will certainly assist many hoteliers," said Long.

"We hope, moving forward that there will be consideration for the tourism levy being used solely for the purpose of promoting tourism within Alberta as we will definitely require funding to promote tourism in our province."

Alberta government officials say allowing hotels and lodging to keep tourism levies collected between March 1 and December 31 will be another aid to help the industry during the pandemic. 

“Alberta’s tourism industry is a key contributor to our economy and it creates jobs and revenue that so many communities across our province depend on," said Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism Tanya Fir in a press release. 

"We’re committed to providing industry the support it needs now so that it can recover and grow.”

By being able to keep the fee, it is estimated that between $16 million and $27 million in additional cash flow would be freed up for the hospitality sector, which employs approximately 30,000 Albertans.

Amounts collected prior to March 1, 2020 that are being deferred under the previously announced deferral program can continue to be deferred until Aug. 31, 2020.

Hoteliers are still expected to file returns throughout 2020, as required by legislation, and will be expected to resume regular tourism levy payments in 2021.

Tourism Canmore Kananaskis board chair Andrew Shepherd, who is also general manager for the Malcolm Hotel, welcomed the change to the hotel levy. 

"We are very pleased with the Alberta government's decision to halt the collection on the tourism levy until 2021," Shepherd said in an email. "It is a significant gesture, and a crucial piece for the recovery of our industry."

The Alberta government continues to work with Travel Alberta to develop a new 10-year tourism strategy. As a result of the public health and economic crisis currently affecting the industry globally, it is being "repositioned" to be able to rebuild the industry and provide a framework for long-term growth, according to a press release.